Thu | Feb 23, 2017

'Gold-en' chance - Bruce readies to take stand as Commission resumes

Published:Sunday | February 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Sunday Gleaner Writer

FORMER PRIME Minister Bruce Golding will lead a list of high-profile witnesses to the stand when the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry resumes tomorrow after its Christmas break.

"I will go there, [and] I go there prepared to answer such questions as may be put to me that I'm capable of responding to," Golding told The Sunday Gleaner last Friday.

"I simply have been asked to provide a witness statement because the commission indicated, in its letter to my lawyer, that they consider that, given my position at the time, I can assist the commission, and I go there with that understanding," added the former prime minister.

Golding, whose political career was derailed by events surrounding the May 2010 operation by the security force in West Kingston, will be followed on the stand by his former Cabinet colleagues Dwight Nelson, the then national security minister, and Dorothy Lightbourne, his attorney general.

Retired army chief Stewart Saunders and retired police commissioner Owen Ellington are slated to face the commissioners after the members of the political directorate.

With the enquiry now shifting focus to examine how the events of May 2010 unfolded, Secretary to the Commission Maria Jones revealed on Friday that Golding will be the first witness questioned.

"The commission is proceeding to call witnesses in a chronological order relating to how the events of May 2010 unfolded in West Kingston, starting with the former prime minister, going back to the residents," Jones explained.

The West Kingston Commission of Enquiry was established to examine, among other things, the conduct of members of the security forces when they entered West Kingston in May 2010 to arrest then fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

The reputed drug kingpin and Shower Posse leader was being sought by Jamaican authorities to be extradited to the United States to answer drug and firearm charges.

Despite intense pressure from the US and local civil-society groups, Golding waited nine months before giving Lightbourne the go-ahead to proceed with the extradition request for Coke.

STATE OF EMERGENCY

By the time the arrest warrant was issued, the then prime minister had to impose a limited state of emergency in the Corporate Area and St Catherine as heavily armed thugs loyal to Coke had assembled in Tivoli Gardens determined to repel any attempt to take him into custody.

"Let us make no mistake. The threats that have emerged to the safety and security of our people will be repelled with strong and decisive action," Golding said then, as he defended the decision to impose the state of emergency.

When the police and the military moved in, there were fierce firefights over three days.

An interim report by the Office of the Public Defender concluded that 76 civilians and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force were killed during the operations.

The West Kingston Commission of Enquiry started last December. So far, 25 witnesses, mainly residents of West Kingston, have given evidence of being shot and physically abused by members of the security forces.

It took a break for the Christmas holidays, but the commission secretary said over the next two weeks a total of 16 witnesses are scheduled to testify.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com