Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tivoli COE: Confounded, Convoluted or Confused?

The Tivoli COE has ended its first week of sittings. Some interesting observations:

* Having advertised for witnesses to come forward and give statement to the Secretariat, the Chairman is faced with an unexpected flood of potential witnesses--anxious to tell their stories. 

There are powerful motivational factors at work:  the extensive media coverage ;  the impression that such appearance will put their financial claims in good stead; the need to bring to public attention the trauma suffered and the hesitancy of the state in making compensation; the physical destruction remaining as a constant reminder.

The Chairman is of the view that all the witnesses cannot be accommodated within the 3- month limit. Hence there is the need for an extension and supplementary budgetary allocation.

*The situation is further compounded by the COE not displaying a sense of urgency.

Originally, it appears that the sittings were to be spread over a longer period  but totaling some 12 weeks, Moreover, the Attorneys have indicated, and the Chairman has accepted, that sittings should commence at !0:00 am ( instead of 9:30 am) and end on Fridays at 1:00 pm ( instead of 4:30 pm ). There is no work to be done on weekends or in the nights,

The rationale is that the Attorneys have to attend to office business before they attend sittings and moreso on Friday afternoons. It can be suggested that there is no hurry as the GOJ has waited over 4 years---much shorter than the Guyana COE into the death of Walter Rodney.
There goes the whole idea of "Flexi-workweek".

*There has been an over reliance during cross-examination on inconsistencies, omissions, contradictions, and damning revelations in recent witness statements. This has been highlighted to cast doubts on the credibility of the witnesses.

There is the subterfuge that the earlier statement was indeed true as the events would have been fresher and the most important elements would have been recorded sooner rather than later. The legal terminology is "recent fabrication" occasioned by malice, greed, fraud, ill- will, partisan politics and the like.
To make matters worse, the Attorneys are not even accepting the "truth" of the earliest statements, Neither have they presented the "truth" of what occurred, according to their clients" instructions. In reality, the cross-examination is  destructive in the sense of attacking the veracity of the witnesses and not concerned with ferreting out the truth.

There is the presumption that cross examination of traumatised individuals after some 4 years will somehow assist in discerning what exactly they experienced.  Attorneys are not equipped with the skill set required to elicit such information from these victims.

*One cannot help but wondering if the Chairman has made it abundantly clear that this COE is not concerned with authenticating the various financial claims that have been made.

*Given that the Tivoli intervention was primarily a military operation, one would have expected that the military operatives would have been the first to give their account. The JDF Report ought to have been published prior to the start of the hearings of the Tivoli COE.

Having opted not to do so, then it would have been appropriate for the Chairman to request that Security Forces place their cards on the table at the start of the proceedings.  

The JDF has "dissed" the account contained in the Preliminary Report of the then Public Defender stating publicly that it contained "numerous unfortunate conclusions drawn on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, misrepresentation and uninformed analysis" (  see Tivoli COE: JDF vs. The Public Defender )

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