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Army retreats - JDF says it no longer believes it should be excluded from the INDECOM Act

Published:Monday | July 29, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Antony Anderson

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

CHIEF OF Defence Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Major General Antony Anderson last Thursday hastily retreated from an earlier position where the army requested that soldiers be excluded from being investigated by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).

The army chief's pull back came after a stern verbal blow from Opposition Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, who castigated the soldiers for wanting to be precluded from the INDECOM Act.

"The people are not going to sit by and allow you to continue to operate in the way that you did in the past. It is not going to happen," Tavares-Finson charged.

Some members of a joint select committee reviewing the INDECOM Act recalled the controversial Green Bay shootings, where members of the JDF shot and killed five of 10 men at the Green Bay range in St Catherine. The men, who were from central Kingston, were taken to Green Bay in Port Henderson, Portmore, St Catherine, to meet a 'big man' who promised to employ them as driver/bodyguards. The incident took place on January 5, 1978.

"The notion of the Jamaica Defence Force seeking exclusion from this Act, I think it's a bit late, it's disappointing. I would really have preferred that you would have accepted that you are going to be a part of this regime because of the experience of the Jamaican people," Tavares-Finson asserted.

The opposition senator, who is also a top-flight defence lawyer, argued that the JDF had demonstrated over the years that it needed some independent oversight because many Jamaicans alleged that they have been abused by members of the army.

His colleague, opposition spokesman on national security Delroy Chuck said the JDF could not be expunged from the INDECOM Act as they work alongside the police in carrying out operations.

Rights abused

According to Chuck, issues of human-rights abuses will arise and therefore the army should be subject to an investigative body.

Tavares-Finson, pointing to Green Bay, said the unfortunate incident was still a sore point with Jamaicans.

"If you think that that issue is dead in the minds of the Jamaican people, you are very wrong," the senator told the top brass of the JDF.

Anderson, in his response, said in his oral presentation, he avoided the issue of exclusion from the INDECOM Act, and as such has withdrawn that position from the JDF's written submission.

The JDF had recommended that it be excluded from the Act "since its exclusion would not affect the aim of it being independently investigated, but it's inclusion has several negative impacts for the force and national security ...".

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com