KINGSTON — A commission of enquiry is to be appointed into the killing of some 77 people in Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston in May 2010.
The Office of the Prime Minister, in a brief statement issued following yesterday’s weekly cabinet meeting, stated that after noting the interim report of the Office of the Public Defender tabled in the House of Representatives last Wednesday, “the cabinet is of the view that a commission of enquiry should be held”.
The 77 people, including a soldier, were killed when members of the security forces battled armed thugs while trying to get into the Jamaica Labour Party enclave to serve an arrest warrant on then strongman Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who was wanted by the United States Government to answer to racketeering and gun charges.
Coke, who escaped the dragnet, was caught a month later during a police spot check on the Mandela Highway in St. Catherine in the company of clergyman Al Miller, who told the police he was taking Coke to the United States Embassy. Coke later waived his right to an extradition hearing and was sent to the United States where he was tried, found guilty and is now serving a 23-year prison term.
Yesterday, in an obvious reference to the related killing of civilian Keith Clarke, a resident of upper St. Andrew, which is now before the court, the OPM said that the cabinet was mindful that a separate investigatory process led to the commencement of criminal proceedings arising from that matter, which was also addressed in the public defender’s report.
“The cabinet will be further considering the Interim Report and the framing of appropriate Terms of Reference for the commission of enquiry,” the release stated.
There was no indication, however, as to how soon the commission would be established and what steps would be taken to address the concern raised by the Opposition Leader Andrew Holness that, on the basis of past experiences with similar enquiries, the process could become politicised.
Holness did not respond directly to yesterday’s announcement, but the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party issued a release from its Belmont Road headquarters in Kingston where the party was having its weekly Standing Committee meeting.
The JLP said that it acknowledged that the holding of a commission of enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens incident was the prerogative of the Government, but said the party would be “watching closely to ensure that the Terms of Reference and conduct of such an enquiry are framed and executed to achieve justice, and [were] free from politicisation”.
Said the JLP: “Like all Jamaicans, we want the process to achieve justice. We are particularly interested in achieving closure for the victims. We want a clear identification of any human rights abuse and compensation, where necessary.”
There were also brief responses to the announcement from the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force, with both pledging their support.
The Police High Command said that after being informed that the Government would be setting up the commission of enquiry into the Tivoli operation, it stood ready and willing to give its full support to the enquiry.
“The decision of the Government of Jamaica to set up such a commission of enquiry, based on the interim report from the public defender, is welcomed by the Police High Command and as such the Jamaica Constabulary Force will participate when required and also offers its full support to the enquiry,” the JCF said. (Observer)