Mon | Dec 5, 2016

EDITORIAL - So far, so good, Sir David!

Published:Friday | December 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM

There is still time for things to go awry, but Sir David Simmons' chairmanship of the west Kingston commission of enquiry, thus far, inspires confidence in us that it will be fair and that any failure to arrive at the truth of the events of May 2010 won't be for an absence of effort on his part.

It is not that we expected anything less. Sir David's excellence as a jurist is well known, and he has experience heading commissions and overseeing investigations elsewhere in the Caribbean. Further, he has the assistance of two outstanding Jamaicans, retired judge Hazel Harris and criminologist and public intellectual, Professor Anthony Harriott.

But this is a potentially politically fraught hearing, dealing, as it does, with matters that have their genesis in the operation in Tivoli Gardens by the security forces to arrest the notorious gangster and community enforcer, Christopher Coke. At least one soldier and 76 civilians died in that operation. Sir David is easily open to accusations of bias, even if the claims are unfounded.

It is against that backdrop that we have been impressed with the manner in which he has been handling the proceedings, including his ejection from the hearings of Lloyd D'Aguilar, the grandstanding, limelight-seeking and disruptive, self-appointed convener/chairman of the Tivoli Committee.

Sir David has been firm, without being rigid, allowing lawyers to test the veracity of witnesses' accusations against the security forces, while allowing the witnesses/complainants room beyond the hard lines that often apply at such hearings. His godfatherly interventions with testy witnesses have defused potentially explosive situations and elicited answers that were not forthcoming from people who communicate primarily in Jamaican and in situations where context and nuance in English may not have been understood or have been lost in translation.

In that regard, it is a gross misrepresentation on the part of those who say that Tivoli Gardens residents who have been victims of abuse have lacked protection from too-robust and unfair cross-examinations. For while their claims are properly tested, cross-examinations have been far from badgering, and Sir David has not allowed attorneys to cross the pale.