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Calls mount for JDF to speak on internal actions since Tivoli operation

Published:Wednesday | August 16, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
George Overton
Jamaica Defence Force soldiers are seen on an operation, in this file photo.

The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) is yet to publicly indicate what it has done internally in light of adverse findings against its officers and the army's actions in the 2010 Tivoli operation, and there are growing calls for the force to address the nation on the matter.

The latest call from retired JDF Lieutenant Commander George Overton comes as a senior Cabinet minister has indicated that the Government will not accept the controversial review by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), which has cleared cops of wrongdoing in the operation to capture then gangster Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

"I believe that it's necessary to declare that something has been done and the relevant authorities have reviewed and said ,'Well, OK. These are the changes that may be necessary in the operational procedures and manuals'," the director of operations at the Guardsman Group told The Gleaner.

"I am not aware of anything coming out from them on this matter. I think they, too, should be doing something. You may find, based on national security, that they may not be publishing what those changes are."

According to Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry, "Unlike the JCF, the JDF has remained silent", and that has to be broken with the impending implementation of the zones of special operation law. We are trusting that we will hear from them soon as to what they have done from May 2010 and after the actual specific recommendations coming from the Tivoli report."

The 2016 report on the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry into the events six years earlier, in Tivoli Gardens, criticised the army for the use of mortars as a "serious error of judgement" and returned adverse findings against JDF mortar officer Major Warrenton Dixon and former army head Stewart Saunders as well as five cops.

That report by the three-member commission said that it accepted credible evidence of extrajudicial killings and dereliction of duty against the named security personnel. At least 69 people were killed, and the commission felt that at least 20 were murders committed by the security forces.

But a JCF administrative review released last week cleared the cops of any wrongdoing and accused the enquiry's commissioners of being biased, confused, and engaging in speculation.

Yesterday, Dr Horace Chang, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, said that the Government could not accept the JCF's report. It was the first comment from the administration.

"We are not satisfied that we can accept that report. It is not a good report, and it is not reflecting well on the police force [given] where we are coming from." But Chang, who was speaking on Nationwide Radio, would not definitely say whether the Government would ask the JCF to withdraw the report. He said that it was "likely we will go that way".

'Withdraw the report ... wheel and come again!'

Donovan Graham, Winchroy Budhoo, Everton Tabannah, Steve Waugh, and Mario Pratt were the cops named in the enquiry report and were recommended barred from participating in internal police operations. Budhoo died in May.

Overton has joined the Public Defender and Terrence Williams, who heads the Independent Commission of Investigations, in calling for the withdrawal of the report, which Commissioner of Police George Quallo has declared he was standing by.

"I find that a lot of what is in there was subjective. There is no benchmark to which those things are being held. For that reason, I believe we have ended up with a very unfortunate position that this review committee has really absolved everybody of the findings of the West Kingston Commission," Overton said.

He said that the task of the JCF review committee, which was chaired by senior cop Wray Palmer, was not to criticise the enquiry's report, but "to look at the points and see whether there was room for improvement or not, whether there was misconduct or not".

"I do believe that there needs to be a withdrawal, and I'd almost want to say wheel and come again," added Overton, who chairs the security and justice committee of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.

While there is general support for the JCF review in the Police High Command, concerns have been raised about the report by some senior cops, a source has told The Gleaner.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte has said that she would provide an opinion on the legal standing of the report.