Wed | May 24, 2017

EDITORIAL - Tivoli: reclaiming and rebuilding

Published:Monday | February 9, 2015 | 2:00 AM

The West Kingston enquiry into the events of May 2010 resumes today with the expectation that the outcome will somehow make a difference in the shattered lives of Tivoli Gardens residents and other inner-city dwellers.

So far, residents have given a kind of appraisal of the three-day security operations, which saw an orgy of shooting, looting and burning in their community as the security forces searched for community enforcer and fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. When the smoke cleared, one soldier and at least 76 civilians were dead.

Now, the enquiry will hear from a number of key officials, including former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, whose defiance of the extradition request for Coke and eventual capitulation continues to baffle many commentators and citizens of this country.

The enquiry has been set up to examine the security operations of May 2010 and to determine who, if anyone, should be held responsible for the loss of life and property.

inner-city neglect

We expect that the enquiry will confirm that inner-city neglect is a long-standing and deeply troubling national problem that exists despite assurances from successive governments that they aim to make life better for the poor.

In Tivoli Gardens, violence has seemingly been passed down from generation to generation like treasured heirlooms. Coke, like his high-profile father before him, was a gangster who is said to have ruled Tivoli Gardens with an iron fist. Indeed, that family also provided many other gangsters.

As we have urged before, the commission cannot complete its work without putting into context the fact that communities like Tivoli Gardens are mired in poverty, with residents collectively struggling to survive in harsh economic times.

There are few jobs, a paucity of opportunities for skills training, and limited access to social services, including health care. In the absence of a prescription for betterment or government intervention for ending the spiral of poverty, the Cokes filled the yawning void. Most of the positive comments about Christopher Coke revolved around his benevolence to people in the community. In other words, dire economic need drove many desperate people into the waiting embrace of Coke and his cronies. Criminal activity is, for many inner-city youth the only job that offers them a chance for advancement.

conflict with the law

Predictably, the strong embrace of men like Coke will bring these communities into conflict with the law. Tivoli Gardens has had many bloody confrontations with the security forces. May 2010 was the deadliest. But the tension between law enforcers and criminals has always been simmering just below the surface.

This enquiry has to point to the necessity of opening up a greater channel of communication between citizens and the security forces. The lack of trust between the two groups has never been greater.

Across the political spectrum, there has been a reluctance to confront the history of these inner cities. But now is beyond the time to face the reality and break the cycle. The commission must not be timid in its recommendations. It should be bold and apportion blame as it sees fit and make far-reaching recommendations for repairing the breach.

The commissioners owe this much to the taxpayers of Jamaica.

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