Fri | Dec 9, 2016

UN's billion-dollar Tivoli toll wrong, says Golding

Published:Wednesday | February 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

FORMER PRIME MINISTER Bruce Golding has disputed the findings of a report by a United Nations (UN) body, which indicates that Jamaica suffered economic losses of US$258 million, or approximately J$22 billion, as a result of events surrounding the 2010 police-military operations in the west Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens.

The assessment by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean of the impact of the limited state of emergency imposed on the Corporate Area was part of the public defender's interim report on the May 2010 operations.

However, in his second day of testimony before the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry, being held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, Golding questioned the UN body's competence to produce that figure.

"With the greatest of respect, they wouldn't have the competence to provide that figure. They wouldn't have the competence to make that measurement," he said during a sometimes testy cross-examination by attorney-at-law Deborah Martin, who is representing the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

However, noting that the report by the UN body was done at the request of the Golding administration, through the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Martin pressed the former prime minister on whether the Government had hired "persons who lacked the competence to do an assessment of this loss".

Toll A Surprise To Golding

Golding, in his response, pointed out that entities like the UN Economic Commission usually relied on local statistical agencies, which, in Jamaica's case, would be the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), to supply them with that information.

"Both of them [STATIN and PIOJ] were within my ministerial responsibility [and] I have never seen either of those two agencies produce any number like that," he testified.

But Martin pressed further.

"Is there a report anywhere that we could access to compare or contrast?" she questioned.

"I believe so. I believe there was a figure produced as to what impact it [the events of 2010] may have had on the tourism sector. I can't recall if there was any specific figure in relation to impact on our aggregate economic number, but that's something the commission could easily seek to ascertain," Golding replied.

Figure Needs Validation

According to Martin, the UN Economic Commission provided a figure for the total impact on the country's gross domestic product at the time, tourism, the business community, citizens, and students who had to sit examinations.

"I'm simply saying that the figure would have to be validated," Golding insisted.

A combative Golding also sparred with the JCF attorney on several issues. Among them was the number of civilians killed compared to the number of illegal firearms confiscated by the security forces in the early stages of the police-military operations.

"For example, in the first two days of the operations when most, if not all, of the civilians had been killed, based on the situation report provided by the JDF [Jamaica Defence Force] and subsequently, the [Jamaica] Constabulary Force, less than eight weapons had been recovered," the former West Kingston member of parliament testified.

Martin's retort was swift.

"Are you aware that the security forces are better trained than civilians in the use of firearms or that they ought to be?" she questioned.

"I would have to educate myself as to the level of training of non-police persons," Golding fired back.

The two also sparred over another section of the public defender's interim reports, where it was found that in 46 of the civilian killings reported, there were important questions to be investigated because they appeared to be questionable.

"You are also aware that the public defender, in his report, said there was nothing to indicate that a member of the security force had, in fact, committed an extrajudicial killing?" the JCF attorney asked Golding.

"Yes, but neither can it be said that these people died from cardiac arrest," the former prime minister responded.

Attorney-at-law Linton Gordon, who is representing the Jamaica Defence Force, will continue his cross-examination of Golding when the hearings continue today.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com