Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tivoli: never again!

Observer column published Monday 20 June 2016

By Jean Lowrie-Chin

One of the police stations set ablaze before the Tivoli operations -
We should feel compassion for the citizens of Tivoli, as well as for our security forces.  We cannot judge the women who marched in white a few days before the Tivoli operation, bearing signs declaring their willingness to die for Christopher Coke referred to as “The President” of Tivoli Gardens, nor can we condemn the decision of the security forces to attempt to arrest Coke, who was wanted for crimes committed in the USA.
The report of the Tivoli Inquiry concluded that the decision of the security forces to go into Tivoli was warranted. Following the announcement that the Government would implement the extradition order for Coke, two police officers had been ambushed in the Mountain View area, and slaughtered; two police stations had been set ablaze; the entrances to the Tivoli Gardens community had been blocked by LPG cylinders which had been chained together, video footage of which was carried in newscasts.
Before the operation began, citizens were offered transportation to leave the community.  Did they remain because they wanted to or because they were forced to do so? Chances are, we will never know.
What we do know is that Tivoli Gardens has long been regarded as one of over a dozen garrison communities in Jamaica led representatives of both political parties – PNP and JLP alike.  From reports, we understand that these garrisons are like modern day plantations, where thugs have replaced overseers. Crossing from one side of a street to another could be very dangerous to your health!
These thugs become very popular with some political representatives in the months leading up to elections.  They ‘control’ tenement yards, and I experienced this when I tried to take some supplies to a bereaved family in my hometown of Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland.
“Is awright, I will give dem,” said a man when I asked to see the children whose parents had been shot to death after their door was kicked in, some months before. He took the bag from me, and walked off before I could utter another word.  Did those children of Dalling Street ever get the bun and cheese, and other Easter treats I took for them?  Chances are, I will never know.
Visiting our parents' graves at Calvary this Easter .. once again, Dad's grave has been vandalised .. Mom's grave awaits tombing - her burial was in February.  A security guard stands watch behind us. 
What I do know, is that to make a recent visit to my parents’ graves at Calvary Cemetery, adjoining Arnett Gardens, I had to hire a security guard and beg the police to be on the lookout.  This is in the Constituency now being hotly contested by Mark Golding and Colin Campbell, as Dr Omar Davies takes his leave of representational politics.
I believe Dr Davies was confronted with a toughness in that constituency, and he must have been a very grateful man when Dr Henley Morgan decided to set up his Agency for Inner City Renewal (AIR) in Trench Town, an organisation lauded in the Tivoli Report, its model recommended for communities like Tivoli Gardens. I am hoping his successor will make it possible for the communities in that constituency be finally and fully healed.
The Tivoli Inquiry is appealing to politicians to stop funding the “dons” in their constituencies.  Out of political garrisons have emerged gangs which have spread fear and grief far beyond the boundaries of these constituencies. How can Jamaica’s lawmakers be funding Jamaica’s lawbreakers? Further, in the national disgrace of scamming, I understand that some of those ill-gotten gains may have found their way into the coffers of political campaigns – if this is true, may such representatives never see the inside of Gordon House.
Hope on the horizon
Before we all hold our heads in despair, let me share that there is a move afoot where decent citizens are keenly inspecting political candidates, and deliberately putting their money where they are seeing honesty and dynamism.  Let this be the beginning of a movement, as we isolate those who are quoting “Vision 2030” with no intention of taking Jamaica there, and affirm those who are showing dedication and duty of care. 
Whether you can give in cash or kind, search for honest Jamaicans and support them, encourage good people to enter politics, so we can finally have the kind of leadership that our people deserve.  You may “see and blind, hear and deaf”, but that donation, even anonymous, can help turn the tide. 

Every well-thinking person is being asked to be a participant in this modern day emancipation of the oppressed citizens of Jamaica.  It is up to our political representatives and those of us who put them in office, that the dangerous challenges faced by the citizens of Tivoli, other garrison communities, and the security forces will come to an end. 

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