Twisting truth on Tivoli Gardens
Paul Ward, Guest Columnist
It is ironic that the almost universal criticism of Lloyd D'Aguilar, convener of the Tivoli Committee, for being too persistent in demanding his voice be heard at the west Kingston enquiry is contradicted by the almost universal criticism of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) lawyers for being too aggressive in their questioning.
Lloyd D'Aguilar was, in fact, trying to do no more than demand that those lawyers be reined in, demanding that they be given no more privilege to speak than those who would defend the witnesses from Tivoli Gardens.
This aggressive strategy being adopted by the JCF and JDF is clear, and five-pronged.
1. To cast doubt as to whether the injuries and damage reported were actually inflicted by the security forces.
2. To attack the credibility of the witnesses by pointing out (in a most tedious way) what are mostly minor inconsistencies in their evidence.
3. To suggest that the witnesses are driven by a desire for monetary compensation, or fear, or loyalty to Christopher 'Dudus' Coke based on past favours.
4. To suggest that the witnesses, if not part of the alleged militarised defence of Tivoli, condoned it by just accepting passively what they should have known was going on.
5. To suggest that the challenge to state authority was so great that the security forces had no alternative but to go in with all guns blazing, accepting indeed that there would have to be extensive collateral damage.
In response, one can suggest that:
1. It is beyond all credibility to suggest that the 76 civilians killed in May 2010, the hundreds injured, and the extensive property damage had almost nothing to do with the presence of the security forces over three long days and three long, dark nights. Recall also that the public defender's interim report suggested that more than 40 of the deaths were likely extrajudicial.
2. Evidence inconsistencies are not surprising given the statements were given in response to varying questioning, and have stretched over a four-and-a-half-year period.
3. These factors may play a part, but listening to the witnesses in the first week reveals their very real anger at the abuse meted out to them, and, of course, the even greater abuse to those who did not live to tell the tale.
4. Most people in Tivoli are doing their best to make tolerable lives from a difficult and disadvantaged situation and have little time for other things going on.
5. No evidence has been given regarding who set fire to the police stations, how 'big' the barricades were, and how much gunfire was directed at the security forces. Recall that very few guns were found in Tivoli. In any case, this would contradict the suggestion that the killings were not done by the security forces.
It is important, therefore, to have a person such as Lloyd D'Aguilar at the enquiry making these points and many more, not the least of which is that this 2010 massacre was the worst such incident since the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865 and driven by the same dynamic, that is to defend the unequal and inequitable status quo, to prevent any effective challenge by the oppressed.