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New sheriff in town

Published:Sunday | July 20, 2014 | 12:00 AM

By Daniel Thwaites

I'm surprised by the debate about whether the talent search for a new commissioner should include foreigners. The answer to that is easy.

Like most of my fellow Jamaicans, I believe that when we move around and migrate and so on, we should have complete and unimpeded rights to occupy any position in any other country. But back a yaad, even the thought that they might be interviewing a foreigner fills me with righteous fury. So that's settled. It will be a local new commissioner.

Of course, we have the talent at home and in the JCF. The issue is the organisational culture that the talent has had to thrive in, and contend with. We must recall that the idea of importing talent is based on the recognition that something is really rotten in the state of the JCF. "Like what?" you ask. Let's start with the unnecessary secrecy.

Case in point: Commissioner Ellington's 'explanation' of his resignation. He says it was triggered by the investigation into an alleged Clarendon death squad and the impending commission of enquiry into the 2010 West Kingston operation. But these don't stand up to scrutiny, even after the revelations of US concerns about our dicey human-rights record.

None of that is new, so it is difficult to see how it should cause a resignation. For as long as I can remember, every week or so a police party is travelling peaceably down the road, or acting on intelligence, when they're accosted by a group of gunmen who open fire, whereupon defensive action is taken and fire returned, leading to half-dozen young men being found hiding in the bushes suffering from gunshot wounds who were rushed to the Kingston Public Hospital and declared dead on arrival.

Although initially sceptical of Ellington's elevation because he appeared to push out Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, I came to regard him as admirable. The increased interdiction of corrupt police was a good sign, as crime stats would probably halve if the JCF was cleaned up internally.

Then there was the 2010 Tivoli disaster that some feel all by itself warranted a resignation. But it was malevolence and irresponsibility by the political directorate that caused it. Even though the operational aspect of the mayhem might, in some measure, be laid at the JCF's feet, I feel it improper to blame Ellington for the carefully choreographed and balletic political dance resulting in calamity.

Importing a commissioner

Returning to the issue of importing a commissioner, it occurs to me that we already have a foreign sheriff. He is Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan, who said when Dudus arrived: "We look forward to presenting our case to a jury ... and bringing Coke to justice." It is to Jamaica's everlasting discredit that these words were not said by a Jamaican prosecutor in front of a Jamaican judge. Here's what we got: "Constitutional rights don't begin at Liguanea."

When, surprise!!!, Dudus pleaded guilty, Preet Bharara reminded us that he "led a ruthless criminal enterprise that used fear, force and intimidation to support its drug- and arms-trafficking 'businesses'. He moved drugs and guns between Jamaica and the United States with impunity. [The] plea is a welcome conclusion to this ugly chapter of criminal history." Here Mr Bharara erred, because the "ugly chapter" nuh done yet, and although the cocaine has been sniffed and smoked, the guns continue to bark. As Kartel taught us, "Mi a goh downtown fi buy two shoes" still has too many meanings.

Bharara is the new don of all dons. Fast-forward and you will find his signature underneath the indictment of 'Schoolboy Richie', which I believe ushered in the current circumstance. For until given compelling reasons to think otherwise, I will question whether the commissioner's sudden departure with USA v Ronald Mohammed Noeranie Badloe a/k/a 'Roy', and Errol Cliff Richards a/k/a 'Richard' in the US District Court, Southern District of New York. I say this based on the timing of the sudden resignation. It followed hard on the heels of a court order, dated June 19, 2014, unsealing Schoolboy's indictment by a Manhattan Grand Jury.

It's important to be absolutely and abundantly clear that there is nothing in the indictment that mentions Ellington. Nor is there any allegation of his involvement in any criminal activity. But The Gleaner's reporting has established a long-time association and connection between he and Schoolboy Richie - though Ellington's case was thrown out - that alone would be enough to ring every alarm bell from that New York courthouse to Washington, DC. However unfairly, we are often judged by the company we keep.

Of course, this is speculation. And by right, we should not need to speculate about something of this importance. The direct source of the information drought is Ellington's unwillingness to speak.

Protective cover

Meanwhile, the Government, through the de facto information minister, first insisted it had nothing to hide, then sought protective cover through the security minister saying they have a right to hide. Even more recently, the attorney general, in an otherwise pinpoint accurate drone attack on bin Golding's convenient anti-US rhetoric, erred in admonition to respect Ellington's "privacy".

For those concerned about sovereignty, remember it has never meant, and will never mean, splendid isolation. And thankfully, other nations aren't as casual about our faults, and aren't minded to forgive us as readily as we are to forgive ourselves.

Although we feel insulted when we're reminded (by the IMF) that you can't keep spending what you don't have, or that drug-connected officials and casual attitudes to police executions are outside acceptable civilised standards, ultimately it's good for us.

Had it not been for the extradition request, we would have sat comfortably with an international narco-traficante maintaining the political balance of power in downtown Kingston. Is it surprising that our justice system hasn't brought one charge against David Smith? Or that we put Tesha Miller back on the road?

Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to