Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Holness: Commission of enquiry a bad idea

Published:Monday | January 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader Andrew Holness, who gave the main address at the party's Area Council One meeting at the Olympic Gardens Civic Centre, Olympic Way, St Andrew, yesterday, said he is not surprised by the backlash the Government has received for the cost of holding a commission of enquiry into the 2010 security operation in West Kingston.

"I knew this day would come," Holness said yesterday as he pointed to the revelation that commissioners and other staff are being paid more than $250 million for their services.

According to Holness, the Government should have gone the route of a truth and reconciliation commission and a coroner's inquest.

"What we really need to have done was to go ahead with the coronor's inquest, because we really need to find out which gun killed which person and who pulled the trigger," Holness said.

An interim report into what former Public Defender Earl Witter describes as a "siege" of Tivoli Gardens during a state of emergency in May 2010 called for a thorough commission of enquiry into activities of the security forces and gunmen. More than 70 civilians and one soldier were slain during clashes between the lawmen and criminals after the army and police attempted to enter a barricaded Tivoli Gardens to execute an extradition warrant for then fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

RJR reports based on Access to Information data last week indicated that salaries for the enquiry could cost taxpayers up to $262 million. Commission chair Sir David Simmons will receive a maximum US$459,170. He is being paid US$370 per hour for a maximum nine hours daily for each sitting. Co-commissioners, Justice Hazel Harris and Professor Anthony Harriott, are paid US$300 hourly and will each take home a maximum of US$372,000.

Legal counsel to the commission of enquiry, Garth McBean, could pocket up to US$446,100 while the junior counsel Symone Mayhew has signed on for US$371,750. A maximum of US$249,600 has been set aside to pay secretary to the commission, Maria Jones.

Desmond McKenzie, deputy leader of the JLP and member of parliament for West Kingston, said the Government should immediately end the enquiry.

"The contractor general needs to start an investigation in this that is taking place," McKenzie said.