KINGSTON — Member of Parliament for West Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, has demanded that government immediately pay over the $110 million in compensation to the victims of the 2010 incursion, arguing that the state seems more interested in holding a high-priced Commission of Enquiry than allowing the residents to move on.
“Six hundred and eighty-eight persons were submitted for compensation, including 1,295 documented complaints involving more than $110 million. Government has since accepted a proposal for a commission which certainly will be an enormous cost to the country at this time, but I have heard nothing about speeding up the compensation of victims and their families after three painful years of waiting,” McKenzie complained while making his contribution to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate in Parliament this week.
According to the report from the Office of the Public Defender, at least 77 people, including a Jamaica Defence Force soldier, were killed in the operations at Tivoli Gardens on May 2010.
The government has since disclosed its proposal for the Terms of Reference of the Commission and have asked the public to make their own submissions. However, McKenzie is adamant the people of West Kingston would not be used for a show.
“The Terms of Reference released by Government is a strong indication of where it wants to go among that some people in civil society there seems to be a wish to reopen the Manatt Enquiry, however, my concern now is that the people who have suffered for three years have nothing to show for the damage that was done to their lives and therefore we are not prepared to be used,” the MP said.
The Manatt Commission was established by former Prime Minister Golding to examine the government’s handling of the United States extradition request for former Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke as well as the hiring of the US law firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to lobby the US Government in the matter.
“The people of West Kingston are not prepared to be used in any further political exercise by this Government. We had suggested a coroner’s inquest and we are suggesting that compensation be paid to the victims and their families as quickly as possible so they can continue their lives,” McKenzie told the legislature.
“We are not prepared to advise the people to become a part of any political circus that was the case of the Manatt Enquiry,” he said further.
McKenzie said an inquest to produce evidence to support the Public Defender’s claim of excess force should be followed up with the appropriate legal action.
“The people must be compensated immediately and a social and economic intervention be funded to help the community and the residents back on their feet. The best thing the government could do at this time is focus on the social and economic needs of the constituency at this time,” he added. (Observer)