Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
OPPOSITION SENATOR Tom Tavares-Finson has called for a full public judicial enquiry into the circumstances that led to the death of more than 70 persons in West Kingston during a military-led operation in Tivoli Gardens in May 2010.
Tavares-Finson, who had served as counsel for former West Kingston strongman Christopher Coke, said in the Senate yesterday that the Tivoli operations represent "just as much a blot on Jamaica's history as is the 1976 state of emergency".
"The Tivoli Gardens killings have not gone unnoticed internationally and we might like to believe that it's our dirty secret but that is not the case and sooner or later, we will be called to give an account to the international community even if we as a society try to forget," Tavares-Finson said.
He noted that the public defender had failed to meet his many promises of a report on the Tivoli operations.
"I said all along that his office was technically incapable of enquiring into and reporting competently into this incident. The less said of this the better," Tavares-Finson said.
He added: "I am calling for a full public judicial enquiry into the circumstances that led to the deaths of people of West Kingston and, indeed, the country require and deserve a full enquiry into this incident."
Stain on the national fabric
In the meantime, Tavares-Finson said the imposition of the state of emergency in 1976 is a stain on the national fabric of the country.
The state of emergency was imposed by then Prime Minister Michael Manley. A commission of enquiry in 1978 on matters concerning the state of emergency, presided over by Chief Justice Kenneth Smith, uncovered that the head of both intelligence agencies of the Government, the Special Branch of the Police Force and the Military Intelligence Unit of the Jamaica Defence Force, never advised Manley of any potential threat to national security.
Tavares-Finson noted that another revelation coming out of that enquiry was that then Minister of National Security Keble Munn corruptly executed his function by issuing blank detention orders for members of the security forces to fill in names of persons detained willy-nilly.
The Tivoli incident took place under the watch of the Jamaica Labour Party while the 1976 state of emergency was imposed by a People's National Party administration.
"The Government to this day hasn't apologised to the Jamaican people. The Government to this day hasn't apologised to the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party and its members and supporters who were detained for obviously political purposes," Tavares-Finson said.
He added: "We must try and resolve that no matter how broad our differences are, we must never abuse state power for political ends. This is a stain on the fabric of the society that we must erase. I call on the Government of Jamaica to apologise unequivocally to the Jamaican people for the torment caused by the declaration of the 1976 state of emergency."
Tavares-Finson also said the Government should look into the viability of holding an enquiry into the Coral Gardens incident where the state allegedly abused the rights of Rastafarians in western Jamaica.