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Apologise and compensate - Commissioners want Gov't to say sorry, provide redress to residents

Published:Wednesday | June 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The David Simmons-chaired commission of enquiry into the May 2010 security forces operation in west Kingston has recommended that the Government of Jamaica apologise in Parliament to the people of west Kingston and Jamaica for the excesses of the security forces while carrying out their duties.

In addition, the commissioners want redress, by way of compensation to the residents, to proceed without delay.

"An apology alone will not meet the justice of the legitimate claims of the people of west Kingston and related areas," the report stated.

With the deaths of 73 civilians and a soldier, the commission noted that the public apology is necessary in order to assuage the "hurt feelings, bitterness, and resentment of the people of west Kingston, and, with a view to promoting restorative justice and bringing closure to this sorry chapter in Jamaica's history".

"The Government is, in the last resort, responsible for the conduct of its security forces," the report charged.

However, the Barbadian jurist and his team of commissioners acknowledged that the operation of the security forces was justified but made it clear that the manner of its execution by some members of the security forces was disproportionate, unjustified, and unjustifiable.

"We have indicated in this report, our disquiet about and dissatisfaction with the deaths and injuries of several persons," the report stated.

Commenting on the long-term effects of the operation in west Kingston, particularly in Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town, the commission said the events of May 2010 have undoubtedly left enduring physical, psychological, and emotional scars on the residents.


Counselling should continue


The commissioners, while acknowledging that the Ministry of Justice provided counselling to the traumatised residents, said they were satisfied that there needs to be a programme of continuing counselling for some of the residents, including children.

According to the report, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean estimated in its report to the Government that approximately 2,500 children were witness to and affected by the events of May 24, 2010.

Providing details on how the residents should be compensated, the commissioners suggested that a compensation committee be established with two broad mandates.

This committee should investigate and determine claims for compensation for loss and damage to property and business.

"Since there already exists in the possession of the MoLSS (Ministry of Labour and Social Security) and OPD (Office of the Public Defender) a substantial body of relevant and useful documentation relating to loss and damage of property, we do not envisage that this recommendation will involve a protracted exercise," the report clarified.

The commissioners further recommended that the compensation committee investigate and determine the quantum of compensation payable to injured persons and to the personal representatives of deceased persons without prejudice to the investigations of the Independent Commission of Investigations.

The commissioners said Public Defender Arlene Harrison-Henry assured them that her office is ready, willing, and able to assist in the swift dispatch of the determination of claims for loss and damage to property and business.

"We respectfully further recommend that the compensation committee be chaired by a retired judge or senior attorney-at-law, expert and experienced in the assessment of compensation for personal injuries and death, and the committee should be directed to complete its work within nine months," the commissioners declared.

The other commissioners who presided over the enquiry were retired judge of the Court of Appeal of Jamaica Justice Hazel Harris and Director of the Institute of Criminal Justice and Security, University of the West Indies, Professor Anthony Harriott.