The following are excerpts of the July 1997
Report of the National Committee on Political Tribalism.
The Committee was chaired by Political Ombuds-man the Hon.
Justice James Kerr.
wars between garrison communities of different persuasions
increased difficulty in maintaining law and order;
an ability to maintain social infrastructure (roads, water,
sewage, garbage disposal, electricity, shops, supermarkets,
markets), which border or pass through disparate communities;
a restriction of movement through these areas which affects
human rights, transportation, and job attendance and opportunities;
a restriction of business opportunities to the localised area
as customers from other communities are denied access by blocked
roads and real or perceived threats of violence.
communities are created by:
development of large-scale housing schemes by the State and
the location of the houses therein to supporters of the party
homogenisation by the dominant party activists pushing out
the minority from within and guarding against invasion from
the expelled setting up a squatter community.
core garrison communities exhibit an element of autonomy,
in that they are states within a state. The Jamaican State
has no authority or power except in as far as it forces are
able to invade in the form of police and military raids. In
the core garrison disputes have been settled, matters tried,
offenders sentenced and punished, all without reference to
the institutions of the Jamaican State.
extract from Mr. Mark Figueroa's important contribution on
the topic speaks eloquently for itself and merits quotation
in this process are all those activities that are associated
with the establishment, the strengthening and the extension
of the influence of garrisons and their associated psychology.
In using the notion of a garrison process, I am linking the
presence of the large scale garrisons such as Jungle, Payne
Land, Rema, Tivoli and other less known strongholds, to a
political culture. This political culture extends well beyond
the boundaries of the communities which have come under the
tight control of politicians, their thugs, and/or local enforcers.
who promote the garrison process seem intend on extending
its dominance over larger and large sections of the country
yet to date there are few constituencies where the vast majority
of the territory has been garrisoned. To focus on constituencies
alone is to miss the significance of the garrison phenomenon
as a whole. The presence of a relatively small garrison within
a constituency or the presence of a garrison in a neighbouring
constituency can fundamentally alter the course of an election
in a constituency that is relatively garrison free. The ability
of the garrisons to do 'outreach work' greatly enhances their
significance. My central concern is therefore with the concept
of a garrison community not a garrison constituency.
worked with a notion of eight garrison constituencies. Based
on my analysis of the 1993 election results I have also identified
eight unambiguously garrisoned constituencies. In addition
there are four other constituencies where I estimate that
garrison control is at or just above 50 per cent and three
where control is between 25 per cent and 35 per cent. In most
cases the garrison process is a bipartisan one. That is, in
the most garrisoned constituencies vast areas are under garrison
control but not by just one party, rather each party has its
garrison areas with a number of contested areas in between.
In many more constituencies the garrison communities constitute
pockets of tight control surrounded by much broader zones
that represent contested areas. Here we see the relevance
of the concept of a process in two ways. First, there is an
effort over time to expand these pockets to the point where
the constituency is transformed into a garrison and second,
the presence of a garrison within a constituency fosters certain
types of actions. In terms of this paper these activities
are mainly seen within the context of vote manipulation and
efforts to rig the results.
below that the garrison phenomenon has become central to the
practice of electoral manipulation in Jamaica. Although the
garrisons may in fact be relatively confined political strongholds
their significance extends beyond their borders. This can
be seen in terms of the connection between the garrisons and
two other related aspects of the Jamaican political system.
of these is turf politics. That is, the process by which political
parties seek geographical or positional control over given
areas as an electoral strategy. Beyond this we have bogus
voting or electoral rigging. In this paper I am treating the
garrison process as the core. Hence I encompass the other
related aspects in the discussion as part of a broad strategy
based on the building of garrisons."
Figueroa therefore emphasised, and we accept, that the creation,
development and maintenance of garrisons are neither accidents
of history nor geography, but part of a process deliberately
fostered for political ends. Equally important is his focus
on the concept of a garrison community, rather than a garrison
constituency, the point being that the existence in a constituency
of a garrison community can have as significant an impact
on the electoral process as the garrison constituencies themselves,
and an impetus to transform the garrison community into a
Features of Garrison Communities
Chevannes de-scribed the common features in this way:
as the political tribe of ancient Greece and Rome was under
the leadership of a demagogue so in Jamaica the garrison towns
were controlled by the Dons. "Entry and exit to and from these
communities are controlled by the so-called "top ranking"
and gang leaders who have close relationships with the constituency
Member of Parliament, get preferential access to contracts
and jobs and function as key elements of the local level community
political leadership in both parties in these inner city poor
areas. These constituencies are made up preponderantly of
these "garrison communities" where organised political gangs
with high powered M-16 and A.K.47 assault rifles and sub-machine
guns control clearly defined political boundaries and territories
where political protection insulates them from the reach of
the security forces."
this to mean that on occasions political influence has impeded
the Security Forces in the performance of their duties.
is a link between garrison forces and the party's political
leadership which provides two functions:
provides the main conduit for accessing and distributing scarce
benefits. The top rankings thus become the main brokers between
the Members of Parliament and the local communities;
in a transactional sense, the Member of Parliament is sure
of retaining his territorial support, while the rankings are
able to acquire wealth and local power as well as protection
from the forces of law and order" Dr. Chevannes.
this as a correct description of the relationship between
the Members of Parliament in certain garrison communities.
Sangster and Chevannes and Mr. Figueroa all resort to electoral
results as a method of identifying garrison communities. On
the basis of a 75 per cent of those voting for the candidate
of a particular party, Dr. A.W. Sangster in the submission
"Point of View" states that between 1989-93 the garrison communities
increased from 3 to 11 an increase of 1 JLP and 7 PNP.
more detailed method of assessing electoral results on a polling-station
by polling-station basis and the extent to which homogeneous
voting has taken place, is to be preferred as he points out
that consistent homogeneous voting in certain rural areas
may be based on a legitimate preference of long standing.
Despite the differences in methodology, Dr. Sangster and Mr.
Figueroa both agree that the following eight constituencies
have dominant garrison communities. They are: Kingston, West;
St. Andrew, South; St. Andrew, South West; Kingston, East
and Port Royal; St. Andrew, West; St. Andrew, East Central;
St. Catherine, Central; St. Catherine, East Central.
the more visible physical effects are the abandonment of legally
owned houses and business premises followed by the capture
of some of these by illegal occupants and/or the destruction
of others through vandalism and inappropriate usage. By this
process, large areas of some garrison communities remain in
a permanently derelict condition, which in turn fosters criminality
attendant consequence of the relocation to other communities
Portmore and the like would be the considerable
economic costs and the unduly heavy burden in those communities
in providing for the new residents suitable accommodation
with the necessary infrastructure and amenities, while the
communities they have left remain with abandoned and unoccupied
Consequential and Continuing Effects
increasing incidence of violence and the attendant space of
murders and serious bodily injuries
agreed by all that party politics was not the only or may
even not be the dominant cause of the record number of homicides
in 1996 which was not an election year. The others
include drug trafficking and gang related activities. It is,
however, beyond debate that party politics was the cradle
for factional conflicts, that the political clashes of the
late 1960s particularly in the election period of 1967 ushered
in the era of firearm offences against the person and that
party politics remain a major cause.
gangs tend to identify themselves with particular garrison
communities and remain affiliated or aligned to their particular
party. During the election period they surface as perpetrators
of political violence and election malpractices.
in garrison communities often suffer from "area branding"
in significant respects, including the following:
from areas of supposed differing party affiliation,
by employer's averse to violence prone areas or themselves
and economic victimisation should their party not from the
government, an immediate risk of losing projects in progress
when their party loses and, not least, the general deterioration
of market values in real property within these areas.
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