After Tivoli – A Different Take

After pressure was brought to bear by the US on extraditing Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke and with the disclosure on his role in the related Manatt Phelpa & Phillips imbroglio, Bruce Golding decided to do something to salvage what little, if any, political capital he still had left. He decided to OK the extradition request and asked his Justice Minister/Attorney General, Dorothy Lightbourne to sign of on it. He also decided to have the security forces go into Tivoli Gardens to execute the warrant for Coke’s arrest. Folks in Tivoli Gardens, including Coke, knew what was coming and were supposedly prepared for the worst.

Sometimes you have occasions where prophesy becomes self-fulfilling. Folks in Tivoli feared the worst and by their actions they fulfilled their worst fears. The security forces entered the community looking to apprehend Coke but they were met by force from ‘defenders of Coke’ and from folks who supposedly have Tivoli Gardens’ ‘best’ interests in mind.

Those with Tivoli’s supposed best interests in mind are/were the ones who supposedly confiscated people’s cell phones and who supposedly threatened those who wanted to heed the security forces advice to leave. These are the ‘patriots’ of Tivoli. I always thought that true patriots were those who put the well-being of their community and country ahead of their own individual concerns in times of national crises and not vice versa. I guess that concept has been totally lost on me. To borrow a quote from the musician Sting, ‘If you love someone, set them free.’

The loss of 73 civilian lives in Tivoli Gardens is sad and regrettable but it was to be expected. For those who are crying ‘massacre’ and ‘blood bath’ and are otherwise being overly dramatic in their description of events in, I say, ‘Please, enough already.’

History is replete with instances of folks and states fighting tyranny, whether from outside or within, to gain freedom and innocent blood being shed in the cause. This does not excuse any excesses that might have been engaged in by members of the security forces but neither should all the blame be laid at their feet.

For those human rights organizations in and outside Jamaica who have been calling for inquiries as to what really went down in Tivoli Gardens involving the security forces, please be equally vociferous in wanting to find out why the criminals in that enclave refused to let those who wanted to leave before these events, were not allowed to do so. The implication, no matter how subtly or sophisticatedly put, is very, very hard to swallow: that everyone in Tivoli was so enamored and enthralled with Coke and his minions.

While human rights entities and other ‘contrarian’ voices do serve as the conscience of democracies, there is, in times of crises, the impression that they are quick to castigate and criticize the state in its response to armed violence being perpetrated against it by organized groups/entities while they are seemingly reluctant to be as vocal/vociferous in their criticism(s) against criminals/terrorists.

Violence, when perpetrated by either the state or by criminals in order to achieve certain aims/goals/objectives, against the helpless, innocent and vulnerable is a human rights violation. The perpetrators must be called out without fear or favor, regardless of who they are and their political/philosophical leanings.

While it should not be expected that in a democracy the media should always be in lockstep with every action taken by the government of the day, it is incumbent upon them to not just report matters in such a way as to prejudice folks against one side or another that could further exacerbate a bad situation and make it worse.

When I read a column where the author is claiming that the security forces massacred seemingly innocent civilians in Tivoli gardens, I asked myself what does he know that folks in Jamaica don’t. This even more so when he stated that he was in the northeast US when the security forces made their incursion into Tivoli. Then you have one other columnist, based in the US and also writing in the same newspaper as the aforementioned, who said that Coke was not the real enemy of Jamaica.

Yes, we don’t want Op-Ed pieces and columns in newspapers and periodicals to all be expressing the same opinions and variety/diversity in terms of opinions and their proponents should be sought out. That said, words and their authors/speakers can have an effect especially when they are published in widely read news outlets or spoken over the (public) airwaves.

In a democracy, one can disagree with the government and should not have to suffer for said disagreement. What should not be the case, however, is that in disagreeing with the state one does not resort to language that can encourage folks to take up arms against the state or resort to violence against the state to get its attention.

When former prime minister and member of parliament Edward Seaga, who created the Tivoli Gardens housing development goes on TV and questions Bruce Golding’s legitimacy as PM and whether or not he has full control over the security forces, that is wrong. When Ken Chaplin writes in his Observer column that the security forces massacred folks in Tivoli, that is wrong, especially when he was not even in Jamaica when stuff was going down.

When Mervin Stoddart wrote in his Observer column that Coke is not the real enemy of Jamaica, I’m left to question what alternate universe is he living in or if he has been smoking something funny. When someone and his minions would seek to violently resist a duly and fairly elected government from carrying out its legal duties in any part of the country, that is wrong – especially when there is a sound legal basis for carrying out said duty.

The question here is not whether there should be a variety of opinions on the Op-Ed pages (there should be) but for folks to exercise discretion and exhibit some degree of intelligence. After a while, it gets rather stale when you’re always blaming ‘whitey’ for all the problems black folks face.

To folks like Ian Boyne, stop with the seeming incessant praises of Bruce’s excellence of elocution on the issues and concentrate more on his excellence of execution (or lack thereof) of his job as leader of Jamaica.

The point here is that those who are in a position to influence events in Jamaica need to do a better job of doing this. We want and/or should see to it that in a democracy the government’s feet is held to the fire and that any action(s) undertaken should be to the benefit of all in society and not just for the well-heeled, well-connected and/or wealthy.

In a democracy, we want human rights organizations to do more than just focus on any human and civil rights violations committed by the state and to speak out just as forcefully and vociferously against those committed by criminals/terrorists against citizens of said democratic state. Perhaps your influence will be much wider and your authority and moral suasion that you seemingly speak with will be more credible.

While there is and should be no doubt that things could have been done a bit better, what has happened in Tivoli Gardens need not have happened if the governments, over the years, had been doing their job in terms of trying to help the less fortunate in Jamaican society. We cannot call ourselves a just, humane, Christian and democratic society and yet we tolerate and even promote the gross inequality in our society.

We can’t consider ourselves a Christian society yet violate the tenet that how we treat the less fortunate in society is how we treat God himself. We know that criminality and corruption is rife, not only in government but also within the wider Jamaican society and that they must be seriously and thoughtfully addressed.

We know that the leaderships of the two major political parties in Jamaica are not paragons of virtue and it is incumbent upon folks to not only ask but demand better from those who lead and aspire to lead. This is an opportunity for a different and better type of leadership to make its presence felt and demonstrated in Jamaica. We need our leaders to rise to the occasion and just do it.

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Oliver Hunter

Mr. Dawes – you seem to accept everything from the security forces as gospel. On the matter of phones being confiscated, this was something just thrown out there without any evidence whatsoever.

And ironically while they made this claim they were at the same time advising them where to call to give information – go figure.

I was personally in touch with people during the ordeal via said cell phone – so I know the claim is rubbish.

It would seem that there is something in our psyche that if we do not have a bloodbath somehow we are not happy.

How has the country benefited from the massacre brought on by the security forces’ grand adventure?

Do you feel safer now that “dem shot up sum a dem people from dung a Tivoli”?

The sooner we lean towards intelligent problem solving methods and step back from the “Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed his tens of thousands” approach the better we will be.

Oliver Hunter

Regarding the criticism of human rights organisations , that they should focus on violations by criminals/terrorists.

The state and its agencies are identifiable the criminals are not.

The state is bound by laws, the criminals are not

If the state wants to be the equal of criminals in lawlessness, then thats a recipe for disaster

Trevor Dawes

That the J’can security forces, particularly the JCF, have a sorry reputation for abuses and extra-judicial killings I am not questioning. That they, or rogue elements within the security forces, in all likelihood, engaged in abuses and extra-judicial killings in TG I’m not questioning. However, to belittle the point that folks in TG who might have considered leaving before what went down happened and were prevented from doing so by goons within TG is disingenuous. I don’t care if these goons are nameless. When folks are given fair warning of an impending disaster and are then forcibly prevented (on the order of death?) from taking measures to protect themselves that is a human rights violation. Folks like Amnesty Int’l and Americas Watch have criticized both the Colombian gov’t and the FARC for human rights violations and the last time I checked, the FARC was not a gov’t entity. In fact, the FARC is listed as a terrorist organization by both the US and the EU. Amnesty Int’l has also criticized non-government terrorist groups in the Middle East as well as the Israeli gov’t for human rights abuses.

Trevor Dawes

Mr. Hunter, everyone now knows that Mr. Coke’s outfit is the Shower Posse so to plead ignorance in this instance is a rather specious argument to make. That they and their sympathizers would forcibly prevent decent folks in TG from leaving or having any means of contact with loved ones from outside TG is a human rights violation. When one’s right to freely speak/express an opinion and to move about freely and safely are forcibly curbed/curtailed without a legitimate reason by any party in any country that is a human rights violation. That Ja. has had lousy governments and governance over these many years goes without saying but to imply that it’s only the state that has infringed upon and/or otherwise violated people’s human rights is a bogus argument to make. I fail to see where it’s asking too much of folks like the JFJ to excoriate these folks for putting good folks in harm’s way by their deliberately irresponsible actions.

I’ll feel safer in Ja. when you have a better gov’t that will more ably and effectively address the issues that bedevil it. The same way I have never bought into the notion that if Reneto Adams was still in the JCF crime would be less is the same way what happened in TG won’t really solve anything if a comprehensive anti-crime strategy and social intervention are not put in place to address crime and its (prospective) perpetrators. When combined with enforcement and implementation of strong anti-corruption measures in/by gov’t and the wider society then and only then will I start to feel some sense of safety.

Oliver Hunter

Mr. Dawes – There is no evidence that people were prevented from having any contact by phone with their loved ones outside of TG.

I spoke to persons during the ordeal. The media spoke to persons during the ordeal. The claim is provably false.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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