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Start Tivoli probe without Witter's report - Levy

Published:Friday | January 18, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Horace Levy, of the Peace Management Initiative, addresses participants in a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's North Street, central Kingston, while Dr Carolyn Gomes, executive director of Jamaicans for Justice, looks on. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer

Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter

Horace Levy, a member of the Peace Management Initiative, is urging the Government to commence an investigation into the circumstances leading to the deaths of 73 persons in May 2010 when the security forces entered Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston, in search of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting had previously stated that a "position" on whether a commission of enquiry would be convened into the incident would be taken after the report from Public Defender Earl Witter has been received.

However, with Witter having missed numerous deadlines to submit the much-anticipated report, Levy believes the Government needs to forge ahead with an investigation.

"Regardless of when (Witter's) report comes out, the state needs to make a declaration that they are going to have an official investigation," Levy reasoned.

Last night Michael Peart, speaker of the House of Representatives, said a team from Parliament met with Witter yesterday to determine how they could assist him with completing the report.

"They don't need to wait on that report to say that. They have been waiting on it and I can understand that, but given the delay, it is way past time for the Government to declare an official investigation and to set it in motion."

More than 700 complaints

Residents of Tivoli Gardens have accused members of the security forces of extrajudicial killings and destroying their homes and businesses during the 2010 incident. At that time, the Office of the Public Defender said it received more than 700 complaints of excesses by the security forces from residents.

"This has been the largest number of persons killed by the state since the Morant Bay Rebellion," Dr Carolyn Gomes, convener of human-rights lobby Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), argued. "Even for the Morant Bay Rebellion, a commission of enquiry was held and Governor (Edward) Eyre was sanctioned within a year for how he responded to that Morant Bay incident."

She added: "And two years later, we cannot get a report from the person paid to do it. Something is wrong, the Parliament must demand from its commission and publicly set out the issue why we can't get the report and what is the timeline for the delivery of the report. It must happen; the people deserve nothing less."

Levy further argued that the Tivoli Gardens incursion and follow-up policing is to be credited for the dip in murders over the past two and a half years, but said he was of the view that the incursion had conflicting effects.

"The good thing is the assertion of the authority of the state, the bad thing is the repressive element, the murders that took place," Levy said. "The fact that those murders have not been sanctioned since and have gone without any punishment whatsoever has authorised the police to carry on and, as a result, we have seen very high police killings over the last two and a half years."

In a letter sent to Michael Peart, Speaker of the House of Representatives in Jamaica, Amnesty International also voiced its displeasure with the handling of the issue.

"It is outrageous that nearly three years since the Tivoli Gardens killings, the Jamaican authorities are far from being able to answer the many questions that remain," said Javier Zúñiga, special adviser at Amnesty International. "By failing to ensure that those responsible for the killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests that took place in Tivoli in 2010 (are held accountable), the Jamaican authorities are simply sending the message that human-rights abuses are permitted and won't be punished."