Tivoli Gardens march & horses down the road

Published: Sunday | March 17, 2013 Comments 0
Lloyd DAguilar
Lloyd DAguilar
Martin Henry
Martin Henry

Martin Henry, Contributor

"On Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.," the news release says, "residents from Tivoli Gardens and west Kingston will be assembling at Half-Way Tree Square for a rally and march to Jamaica House to deliver a petition addressed to the prime minister demanding an international enquiry into the May 2010 massacre by the security forces."

Bustamante would be pleased. Busta once represented Western Kingston in Parliament. He was the founder of the Jamaica Labour Party, on whose political behalf Tivoli Gardens exists.

But, more to the matter of the moment, Busta was a leader of the labour movement, which erupted in the workers' unrest of 1938 and an unrelenting campaigner for justice and the rights of the little man from the time he returned to Jamaica and started writing letters to The Daily Gleaner.

Nothing serious happens without leadership. We are inundated with daily bleatings that 'we' are all responsible and something called 'society', or, more elaborately nowadays, 'civil society', should do this and do that.

Here comes Lloyd D'Aguilar, who is no Bustamante in either ideology or capacity but who serves a useful purpose, and his associates, providing leadership for the Tivoli Committee and the Campaign for Social and Economic Justice.

The movement is demanding justice for those who suffered in the incursion by the security forces in May 2010, nearly three years ago, to extract for extradition the leader of the community whose defence force had barricaded and fortified the community against entry by the security agents of the Jamaican State.

The committee is "demanding an international enquiry into the following acts committed in May 2010 in Tivoli Gardens by the security forces, acting on behalf of the Jamaican State and Government: extrajudicial killings; beatings; torture; criminal destruction of property; seizure of property without compensation; theft; loss of liberty; and other forms of physical and psychological abuse."

"We the people of Tivoli Gardens and West Kingston," the news release advised, "can wait no longer on the Jamaican Government to deliver accountability and justice for the savagery and the massacre that was meted out to us by the security forces in May 2010. This delay, we believe, is due to the fact there is no intention to deliver justice to those who suffered. We have no confidence in the Jamaican justice system to, on its own, deliver justice to the people who suffered."

No GOVT INTERVENTIONThe prolonged delay on the part of the Office of the Public Defender to deliver its report on the Tivoli Gardens incursion adds great credibility to the call for an international enquiry. The incapacity of agencies of the State to properly discharge their duties because of being starved of the necessary resources must not be overlooked in the public beating upon the public defender.

Were we still a colony, there would have been a commission of enquiry out from the mother country, as was the case after the Morant Bay Rebellion when grave injustices were heaped upon the people of St Thomas, and after the 1938 labour riots.

Justice has long been graphically portrayed as a pretty blindfolded girl with a pair of balances in one hand and a sword in the other. By Europeanstandards of beauty. Jamaican standards favour the heavier, fuller female figure.

The people of Tivoli Gardens and West Kingston should clearly understand that a just enquiry seeking to balance justice would of necessity have to also investigate and report on the stand-off against the security agents of the Jamaican State which impeded the normal arrest of a fugitive and precipitated the incursion, and the complicity of the community in the matter.

An impartial enquiry worthy of the name would have to investigate the alleged atrocities of the siege warriors against non-cooperating residents. The deaths and disappearances should not only be enumerated down to the last person, but responsibility for each attributed.

GARRISONS

Nor could any such enquiry conclude without a full investigation into the rise of Christopher Coke as 'community leader' and his national reach, the creation and maintenance of the system which produced him and his father, and the ties of the system to politics and to extortion, and to the drug trafficking and gunrunning for which Coke was finally extradited and convicted and from which at least some elements of the community benefited in complicity.

The rise and entrenchment of political garrisons is but one example of the Jamaican State failing to act until after the horse is out the gate and well down the road.

The lottery scam, which captured much of the news last week, was never a crisis when hundreds of people were getting killed over it and entire communities being criminalised by operators. It is now, with the Government of the United States on our case calling for extradition as part of the solution, and tourism bracing for a punch in the guts.

Listen to Senator Susan Collins, the top ranking Republican on the US Senate Special Committee on Ageing, tying together scamming and tourism! "I think they are finally taking it seriously, but it has taken a number of years for them to do so, and I would like to see them put the effort in this, in stopping this scam, as it puts (effort) into enticing Americans to come vacation in Jamaica. A lot of money is spent on that."

Legislation has been rushed through Parliament to deal with the matter, with serious concerns emerging over the negative impact of loose ends in the anti-scamming law on law-abiding citizens conducting their lawful business. It is not difficult to recall the 20-year -long Suppression of Crimes Act (1974-1994) as an ineffectual response to the criminality which garrisons spawned and which trespassed upon the rights of non-criminal citizens.

Activist Joan Williams' letter in The Gleaner last Wednesday, which was aptly titled 'Gangster country', after noting how quickly the legislature passed the Fraudulent Transactions Act, went on to ask: "On the other hand, Jamaicans have been victims of the extortion racket for decades, but has any government rushed to enact effective legislation to stem this practice and make the perpetrators face severe fines when convicted?"

Joan went on to offer her own reason: "Why? Because the dons who usually control extortion are aligned to the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party, and their guns and influence are critical in the garrisons to our two parties, which have been properly categorised by The Gleaner as 'the Gangs of Gordon House'. Jamaica is truly gangster country from top to bottom."

Government has allowed squatting to get completely out of hand and as deeply entrenched as any clause in the Constitution. As a matarafact (in Jamiekan), Government has been quietly using squatting as an unofficial land access and housing policy while allowing the National Housing Trust to accumulate some $200 billion of contributors' money, which can now be raided for budgetary support for IMF purposes. And another law pushed with indecent haste through Parliament, like a well-lubricated conduit.

You can pick your own favourite cases of government by dawdling from the abundance of available examples. As Joan Williams puts it in her letter to the editor: "In Jamaica, laws to make this a better society pass at a very, very slow rate, if at all. When we see anything happening in the justice system quickly, you know that some powerful outside country is wielding a big stick."

Take water and energy: In this land of wood and water, the short sightedness of tardy Government has set up a major water crisis for the near future, a crisis which is at this stage almost certainly unavoidable. With subcommercial low and static rates (set for political reasons) and the absence of compensatory subsidies, Government has made very, very sure that the state-owned monopoly, National Water Commission, could never expand capacity to meet rising domestic and industrial demands.

Urban centres have outgrown their water supplies. Both surface water and groundwater are in abundant supply. Collection, treatment, storage and distribution are the issues. Even if the country starts running down this horse, which is out the gate and down the road, there won't be any catching it in the short term.

Shocked by the shock of the Arab/OPEC oil embargo of the mid-1970s, the Government of Jamaica, which owned the monopoly Jamaica Public Service Company between 1970 and 2001, set up the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica in 1979 to steer us away from overdependence on expensive foreign oil. Now, more than 30 years later, a full generation, we are still dithering about alternative and cheaper fuels and non-fossil fuel energy sources. If only we had tethered the horse!

Martin Henry is a communication specialist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and medhen@gmail.com.

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