Sunday 9 August, 2020

Questions linger 10 years after West Kingston incursion

In this 2018 file photo, protesters, including Lloyd D'Aguilar (right foreground) demanding compensation for injury and damage reportedly sustained during the 2010 security forces' operation in West Kingston.

In this 2018 file photo, protesters, including Lloyd D'Aguilar (right foreground) demanding compensation for injury and damage reportedly sustained during the 2010 security forces' operation in West Kingston.

Ten years after the West Kingston incursion left over 70 people dead and then Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke on the run, one prominent community member is still angry at the authorities for their handling of the matter.

Lloyd D’Aguilar, Convenor of the Tivoli Committee, has also dismissed the subsequent Commission of Enquiry into the matter as nothing more than a vehicle to exonerate those who he said were responsible for the loss of life and property damage.

According to D’Aguilar, the Jamaican state merely went through the motions of convening a Commission of Enquiry into the massacre.

“A Commission of Enquiry is first of all an admission that there is not enough first hand evidence of criminal behaviour to charge someone, or those acting on behalf of the state. A wider enquiry is required to examine the background as to why there is such lack of direct evidence, and to assure the public that the state is prepared to make amends if found wanting,” D’Aguilar said in a statement marking the 10th anniversary of the incursion.

But while suggesting that a wider enquiry should be held, D’Aguilar has highlighted a possible drawback with this approach.

“The problem with this approach is that it is the state which determines the terms of reference for any such enquiry and selects those who will be the enquirers,” he noted.

He repeated his claims that “superior commanders of the May 2010 Tivoli Gardens/West Kingston Massacre enjoyed personal exoneration,” for their actions.

Christopher 'Dudus' Coke in the custody of US federal authorities after being extradited to the United States in 2010.

“Their exoneration was craftily engineered by the Jamaican state,” said D’Aguilar, while suggesting that such exoneration was brought about because of what he said is the impunity with which the state approaches extrajudicial killings.

D’Aguilar further claimed that such killings are part of a state policy.

“The state reserves the right to engage in such future killings on the scale of a massacre,” he charged.

“Those who could be called upon again to carry out such criminal acts in the future must be assured that they will be protected. It is as simple as that,” added the Tivoli convenor.

He asserts that the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry was therefore set up by the government to “avoid examining the role of the superior commanders and write a few hundred pages of irrelevancies”.

D’Aguilar lamented that International law was never brought to bear – “not even a specific condemnation of the use of mortars fired into a residential area. No one was held accountable”.

He said further that the only specific unconstitutional act was the detention of over 5,000 men – not one of whom was ever recommended for compensation. He said this was so because the state continues to randomly detain men under current states of emergency as part of its so-called crime-fighting measures.

Then Prime Minister Bruce Golding was among those who pleaded with Coke to surrender.

D’Aguilar has listed what he said are glaring shortcomings of the commission of enquiry, including:

- No criminal charges recommendations – nor did it address the notion of superior command responsibility;

- The role of a company in accommodating a detention centre on its property and on which men were reportedly tortured and killed.

- The use of the Kingston Public Hospital as a sniper post resulting in the shooting and killing of many people was never examined.

- People’s homes were taken over by security forces and they were never compensated.

- The security forces stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from poor residents – this was never addressed, as well as other forms of looting according to D’Aguilar.

The incursion of the security forces into West Kingston on Labour Day in May 2010, followed days of unrest in that part of the city and elsewhere by persons loyal to Coke. In the days leading up to the incursion, at least two members of the security forces were shot and killed and several police stations set ablaze.

Despite repeated pleas, Coke, who was wanted by the United States authorities on an extradition warrant, failed to surrender to the police despite repeated pleas for him to do so. Among those who pleaded with Coke to surrender were then Prime Minister Bruce Golding who initially defended Coke.

Instead, Coke barricaded himself inside his previously impenetrable Tivoli Gardens stronghold with a vow to fight to the death. However, he and others loyal to him reportedly escaped as the security forces advanced into Tivoli Gardens. He was on the run for 30 days before he was apprehended in the company of the Reverend Al Miller on the Mandela Highway in St Catherine, reportedly on his way to the US Embassy in Kingston to surrender.

Coke waived his right to an extradition hearing and was flown out of Jamaica the next day. He’s now serving a 23-year sentence in Federal  prison in the United States on drug and gun running charges.

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