Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tivoli COE: Fault in Focus


We are of the considered opinion that the Tivoli COE should be state-centric rather than victim-centric. By that we mean that the focus should be concentrated of the activities of agents of the state in the debacle and not the welfare of the victims. This might appear cold and indifferent to the trauma and agony resulting in the deaths of 76 or more Jamaicans allegedly at the hands of agents of the state.

In support of that position we contend that the process of discerning the" truth" is probably best dealt with in three (3) distinctly different spheres:

       1. There needs to be a forum in which victims and eye-witnesses  can tell their stories as how they remember it and in their own words. They would do this in groups of their peers who were in close proximity at the material time. Such would facilitate some "correction" and the filling in of blanks in the memory. This exercise would allow them to vent, receive counseling, and ultimately assist in the healing process.

No attorneys should be present.
  
Only those trained in the appropriate skills should assist in eliciting the information So there would be psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, clergy, mediators and the like.
These sessions could be recorded and analysed by those with the appropriate training and experience. 

         2. The matter of compensation is foremost in the minds of those who have suffered loss/damage to property, incurred expenses directly as a consequence of the invasion/siege/ armed conflict ( eg medical expenses), and loss of income due to personal injury or restricted movement.

The validity of such financial claims would be subject to the investigation done in processing insurance claims. Such is not conducive to public hearings or public cross examination by Attorneys. The attorneys would be involved after the investigatory work has been concluded.

The Public Defender in the Preliminary Report referred to  such work being in progress with a cadre of volunteer attorneys processing the submitted claims. This needs to be expedited and not replicated by the Tivoli COE.

Indeed not only should the Chairman make it abundantly clear to witnesses in the enquiry but should prevent Attorneys from pursuing that line in examination in chief or cross on the basis of not being relevant.

              3. There needs to be an meticulous investigation into the role of state agencies during the TG episode.
 Since it was a military operation  the activities of JDF should be the central focus of the Tivoli COE.
There is need to expose the role played not only be the security forces but also agents from the Ministries of Health, Labour & Social Security, National Security, the ODPEM, the JCF. The operational assistance by foreign agents must be clarified.

Emphasis should be placed on the information that informed the decision- making process, the operational aspects--its failures & successes. The decision makers  and operational officials should be called upon to account.
Documentary evidence must be made available with the appropriate "National Security" considerations. 

A COE is the appropriate mechanism to ferret out this "truth". The Tivoli COE must call upon the then Public Defender to justify his published findings and facilitate his responding to the JDF elucidation  of those misunderstandings, misinformation, and erroneous conclusions.

From the state-centric perspective, the aim is to mitigate, as far as is possible, any recurrence of this debacle. 

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