Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 2nd 2013 Contents A26
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt June 2, 2013
Three years already? On May 24,
2010, the day of Kamla Persad-
Bissessar s election victory, Jamaican
troops and army rampaged into Tivoli
Gardens in West Kingston.
A few days later, the bodies of 76
dead civilians had been dumped in the
morgue. One soldier had been killed.
Christopher "Dudus" Coke, the pow-
erful "don" who controlled the Jamaica
Labour Party s prized garrison, was on
the run. He was held a month later.
"Dudus" is now safe in New York,
serving a 23-year sentence. His brother
"Livity" Coke says he was beaten almost
to death while in detention last year.
Their former Tivoli headquarters is a
On one level, the Tivoli operation
brought results. Jamaica s murder rate
last year was one-third down from its
2009 peak. The power of the "dons"
has been dented.
But it has long been clear that many
of the 76 dead were not casualties of
a bloody house-to-house gun battle.
Most were victims of cold-blooded
After just three days, on May 27, 2010,
the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights called for a "diligent,
effective, and impartial investigation."
A respected pressure group Jamaicans
for Justice was deeply worried by reports
of "wanton extra-legal killing."
Three full years on, Portia Simpson
Miller s government has at last agreed
to a public enquiry. It was prompted in
part by a 257-page interim report,
released last month by Jamaica s Public
Defender, Earl Witter. Golding and most
of the key players are on board.
Witter describes a "ferocious organ-
ised assault on the community, marked
by unrelenting aggression."
His cautious estimate is that 44 of
the 76 deaths were extra-judicial exe-
Witter has suffered flak for taking
three full years to publish. To be fair,
his office--equivalent in some ways to
that of our ombudsman--is under-
staffed, under-funded and swamped
by thousands of routine complaints. He
is not empowered to investigate the
defence force, which was heavily
involved in Tivoli--and indeed in routine
He provides a chilling read: "We were
admitted to the morgue and viewed
three large mounds of tagged corpses,
most in varying stages of decomposition,
many nude or scantily clad, piled up
on the bare concrete floor: a macabre,
surreal spectre of mass slaughter. At
first, the two insensate and impatient
morgue attendants on duty could give
no accurate tally of these dead."
A 45-year-old man tells how the
security forces kicked down his front
door, then made him wait on the veran-
da while his nephew Kevin Gordon was
held indoors, interrogated and shot.
Next "they draw out my nephew Kevin
on a coloured sheet, pulled him on the
sidewalk, removed his clothes." Kevin s
body was thrown onto a police truck
with ten other corpses.
Bojon Rochester, his mother, and
neighbours were standing outside when
a mortar round struck. His mother says
"after the smoke kinda clear, Bojon was
lying down on the ground with other
men, some of them dead." He was
bleeding from his side and crying for
water. A little later, "police and soldiers
came up the pathway and kicked over
some of the bodies. One of the soldiers
came over to him and just shot him...
They scooped up all the bodies and
threw them on a big dumper truck."
"Dudus" was a brutal thug. Many of
those killed were no doubt ruthless gun-
men. But good policing arrests culprits
and puts them on trial. Since 2006, an
average of 243 Jamaicans have been
killed by the police each year. Among
the victims of May 2010 was a scion
of Jamaica s hardworking professional
Keith Clarke, a well-respected 63-
year-old accountant, was home in
upscale Kirkland Close on May 27. An
erroneous intelligence report pinpointed
Dudus and seven heavily armed body-
guards to his house. Sixty soldiers
attacked at two in the morning. A hel-
icopter with arc lights hovered over-
His wife, a regional director at
the education ministry, was no
doubt terrified. She fruitlessly called
the police. Clarke hid in a clothes
closet. Emerging, he took 21 gun-
shots, 16 of them in the back.
His family is suing the State for
the equivalent of $1.15 million (TT).
A lance corporal and two privates
have been charged with murder.
What s next? The big questions
are not which soldier or policeman
fired which bullet, but about strat-
egy and tactics.
The enquiry should examine for-
mer prime minister Bruce Golding;
the army commander; and Owen
Ellington who remains in office as
police commissioner. It should also
talk to "Dudus".
A few non-Jamaican commis-
sioners would boost credibility.
Beyond that, the unofficial Tivoli
Committee wants the affair referred
to the International Criminal Court.
That could pose problems, as
Jamaica has signed but not ratified
the ICC treaty; but it would be a
In 1972, British troops killed 14
protesters on "Bloody Sunday" in
Northern Ireland. An enquiry began
work in 1998; its findings were
published in 2010. In Tivoli, three
years have passed already. Jamaica
needs to move fast.
TIME TO LAY TIVOLI'S GHOSTS
This schoolgirl waits as a soldier inspects her bag at a military
checkpoint Tivoli Gardens, Kingston, Jamaica.
Residents of Tivoli Gardens take to the streets in support of alleged crime lord
Christopher "Dudus" Coke.
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