Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
Civil society demands Witter hand in Tivoli report
MORE THAN two years after the bloody Tivoli Gardens incursion rocked the nation and attracted international media coverage, with the killing of 73 people, the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) is describing as a national shame the absence of even an interim report into the incident.
"It's a shame on Jamaica. I don't know anywhere else where something of the magnitude of Tivoli could have occurred and two, nearly three years later, you can't have even an interim account of what took place," declared Carol Narcisse, executive director of the JCSC.
Speaking during a Gleaner Editors' forum yesterday at the newspaper's North Street, central Kingston offices, Narcisse urged a "conscientious parliamentarian to please table a question in Parliament" requesting the status of the Tivoli report from Public Defender Earl Witter.
Deadlines not met
Witter had given a number of deadlines to submit an interim report to the House of Representatives. However, to date, there has been no indication from the House that the report has been received.
According to Narcisse, the request for a status report from the public defender would trigger a response from the minister whose portfolio covers the Office of the Public Defender. In that case, Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding or his colleague in the lower House, Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, would be called on to provide an update.
The JCSC executive director said her organisation was in the process of writing to Witter to enquire about his long-awaited report.
"It is intolerable that it has taken us this long to have even an interim report," Narcisse insisted.
She noted that the coalition recognised that the public defender did not have some of the resources at his immediate disposal that would have improved the investigative process.
Narcisse observed that the Office of the Public Defender was challenged in preparing its report due to delays in receiving the ballistics report.
The coalition contended, however, that there was a lack of political will for the matter to be fully ventilated and to determine if anyone should be held accountable.
"On a bi-partisan level, I don't think there is a serious desire to have the answer."
Human-rights lobby Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is also agitating for the submission of the report to Parliament.
Susan Goffe, chairperson for JFJ said an issue of great concern to her organisation is the damage that was being done to the credibility of the Office of the Public Defender.
"In many of our institutions, there is an erosion of confidence and trust... and the damage that that does to the society is great.
"Therefore, I believe there is a need for some public accountability from the public defender as to what it is that is currently causing the continued delay of a response."
Sending wrong message
Goffe argued that, "(if) we never have accounting for an incident as massive as the Tivoli incursion was, then the signal is, in fact, sent to the security forces, both soldiers and police, that they can act in a manner where there will be no accountability".
"Both administrations, the previous one and this one, have said they are waiting for this report but if this report never comes what happens?" she questioned.
Meanwhile, Narcisse said the country should also be informed whether the Government had requested footage collected by the United States spy plane during the incursion in May 2010.
The May 2010 incursion into Tivoli Gardens was aimed at capturing then fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
In the wake of the deaths of the 73 people, Witter launched an investigation into that matter as well as the shooting death of accountant Keith Clarke at his East Kirkland Heights home in upper St Andrew.
Director of Public Prosecutions' (DPP) Paula Llewellyn ruled in July that three soldiers should be charged with Clarke's murder, more than two years after his death.