Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston

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Gleaner column, Nov 23, 2017

How to “make life in and through violence” in Jamaica is the problem an exhibition at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia ponders. Titled “Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston” the exhibition is constructed around a film called Four Days in May by Deborah Thomas, musician Junior Wedderburn and Deanne Bell, a Jamaican psychologist based at University of East London. Thomas who is a professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania initiated research for the film in 2012. The Penn Museum exhibition, unveiled on November 17th, 2017, marked the formal launch of the completed project.

Thomas is known for her books Modern Blackness and Exceptional Violence as well as her first film, Bad Friday, which chronicles the state-sponsored repression and victimization of Rastafari in the wake of events at Coral Gardens in 1963. Both films are examples of the thrust of anthropology in the digital age, visual practices attempting “to witness and to archive state violence, and to give some sense of how the practices and performances of state sovereignty have changed over time.”

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Beautifully designed story boards provide details of the timeline of the 2010 Tivoli incursion mounted by heavily armed security forces in Jamaica to restore law and order in the garrison community and to arrest its leader, Dudus, wanted in the United States for drug running and other crimes. A (Very) Brief History of Jamaica provides historical background while below, a series of numbers are provided, amplifying what took place during the dramatic period of the incursion.

The series starts by presenting an interesting connection to Jamaica. 1682: The year Pennsylvania was founded after William Penn was given a land grant from the British Crown due to his father’s role in winning Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. Then it shifts to Tivoli in West Kingston. 75: The number of civilians the state acknowledged were killed. 200: Roughly the number of people the community says were killed 4: The number of days citizens were locked down in their homes unable to leave. 18: The total number of guns found in Tivoli Gardens by security forces. 36: The number of spent casings that were recovered and presented for analysis. 1,516: The number of rounds of ammunition expended by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. 4000: The approximate number of people detained of whom only 148 were not released. 6.5: The number of years it took to produce an official report on the incursion.

The project is intended as a platform for inhabitants of Tivoli Gardens and surrounding communities to talk about what they experienced during the incursion and to publicly name and memorialize the loved ones they lost. 30 oral histories were collected and portraits created which are displayed in the exhibition. Each life size portrait, expertly and empathetically shot by photographer Varun Baker, is accompanied by a recording of the person portrayed speaking, which visitors can listen to through headphones. The direct, unembellished testimony is moving, sometimes shocking. Many who listened were moved to tears.

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One such portrait is that of Marjorie Williams and her daughters, Diane and Diana Barnes. The text  accompanying it says: Marjorie was born in KIngston, on November 14, 1961, her twins were born at Jubilee Hospital in 1997. Marjorie moved to the area that is now Tivoli Gardens at age three. She attended St. Alban’s Primary School, and then graduated from Tivoli Gardens High School. When her kids were younger she worked seasonally in Cayman doing housekeeping work in hotels. Her two sons were killed, execution-style, outside her house on the second day of the incursion. Since that time, the twins have been living in central Jamaica, as they didn’t feel they could stay in Tivoli Gardens.

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Similar texts accompany the other portraits. Also featured is a life-sized model of a Revival Table, and a display of different kinds of drums used in Revival, Kumina and Nyabinghi, “three musical traditions integral to the formation of West Kingston.” At the launch Jamaican musicians and exemplars of each tradition drummed and danced bringing the still, silent museum to life. We joked that the old African skulls and bones displayed in vitrines in a neighboring exhibition “Is There Such a Thing Called Race in Humans?” must have felt invigorated by the rousing African-inspired rhythms and songs filling the air.

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Also on display is a copy of the Report of the West Kingston Commission of Inquiry. An innovative part of the exhibition posed different outcomes depending on what actions were or were not  taken. What would have happened if the security forces had never gone into Tivoli? What if the Government had not signed the extradition order? What if Dudus had turned himself in?

Bearing Witness culminates in a screening of an eight-minute excerpt from the documentary Four Days in May projected onto three screens. The excerpt starts with footage from the American ‘spy plane’ showing aerial images of the community, with what appear to be gunmen staking out rooftops. The exhibition will remain at the Penn Museum till July 2018.

The KD Knight Show (aka the Manatt Commission of Inquiry)

A satirical conversation on the Manatt Commission of Inquiry, excerpted from Facebook…

Las May, Jamaica Gleaner, January 19th, 2011

As the world turns Jamaicans, are glued to the live broadcast of what i call the KD Knight Show, aka the Manatt Commission of Inquiry. A semi-judicial reality show of no mean order Jamaica’s legal heavyweights have finally attained their share of the videolight and boy are they revelling in it. The Inquiry is investigating the circumstances leading to the extradition of  former Don Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke in June last year.

Manatt/Dudus Enquiry Is Like A Circus Or Talent Show? Clovis, Jamaica Observer, February 15th, 2011

Meanwhile most witnesses called to the stand are tight-lipped and suffering from memory lapses (most notably the Minister of Security, Dwight Nelson). Pity you can’t just plug in extra memory modules to boost their recall. If nothing else the Inquiry has generated some hilarious political satire such as this Facebook conversation below. All names have been changed to protect the identity of the participants.

SW

March 7, 2011

Hear Ye, Hear Ye…we have some Limited Edition Manatt Enquiry stuff for sale….’silent auction’ cos we caan afford wi wake up d ‘Asst Page Turners’…Link me een mi inbox for samples….(ef oono c Dennis Brooks a advertise nuttn no buy e…a teefn goods)…anyways….sen oono credit card come quick cos dem soon done.

LGY We have tings like “I don’t recall” T shirts in Green! “I don’t remember”T-shirts.., IN GREEN! We also have green t-shirts with Dudus face pon di front and a big X through it,and round the back the words “I do not know him”! ALL Green shirts are special edition!

Jamaica Observer, February 20th, 2011 During witness testimony at the Manatt/Dudus enquiry, Minister of National Security, Dwight Nelson, claimed that he did not personally know alleged Tivoli Gardens strongman, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. Clovis.

OD lol…mi want a “It was not clearly in writing” shirt please·

SW We also have T-Shirts dat say “Subjunctive”…an nuff odder tings…we also ave ones dat say “you seem frustrated” (dese will ave Samuda pic on dem)…remember all dese are VERY LIMITED so oono urry up an sen on d money! (u wont regret the purchase)

LGW And we have some orange t-shirt whe sey “I saw the secret MOU”!

SW Yes Yols,,,,in dat dere package we will also have little dolls of the ‘Asst Page Turners’…u can put batteries in dem and dey will speak…albeit slowly but speak they shall…dey will even turn d pages for you & d controls will allow you to adjust d volume so dem can ‘whisper’…now dat oono affi order fast cos dem EXTREMELY LIMITED!!!!

LGY Yes people ah ongle two of dose dolly exist! Order dat now!·

CE Jr I just need the one dat say “Can’t recall”

CW I hear there are hats with”Cant Recall” on them

LGY yes Clyde we have those too! How much you want?

CW nuff as mi acting as agent (duly authorised) for a certain Central Committee

LGY ahright cool!

LGY soon set up your ting!

CW cool, cuz dem seh mi muss mek sure dat people tink seh is a certain Executive Council

LGY ok nuh fret man… it all look like dem, bad spelling and all! ·

CW a now mi wish dis was happening in a merca as di stand comedy circuit would be buzzing daily

CW lol lol lol mi side a at mi

SW Yols…..ef Clydey buy a good amount we can give him two ‘free’ shirt fi good measure…Clyde…u no waan d two dolly dem man?? cho!

LGY eeeh? Buy di dolly dem nuh? How yuh ah move tight suh? Ah mussi yuh name Harold Brady!

CW Whaaphen yuh nuh hab nuh puppets

CW a puppet mi whaan

CW mi whaan mek a gift to some heavy weights

LGY ah dolly we have, dem battery operated and do tings! Not much, but dem do tings!

CW k cuz u know what I know but yuh a gwaan like yuh waan oddas know

SW Clyde…anything u waan wi ave it…we will ‘custom bill’ e for u ongle….puppets we do ave….jus tell wi ow much u waan an mek sure u tek off d 2 dolly dem off wi Hands…u can go sell dem bak pon EBAY an mek NUFF NUFF money cos e price a go skyrocket by year end…wos wen election close!

LGY Yes I know that U know that I know what u know … I’m not daft!

CW dwrl unno have nutten weh mi can gi mis daisy shi seh she whaan gift it to r parson

SW oh…’DOLLY DISCLAIMER’…’Should this toy not meet your specifications or expectations…the manufactures CANNOT be held responsible….please address all concerns in that vein to Jamaica House’ (we do hope you get a response…ef not…hire a good lawyer or commission a COE)

AP or just hire us. Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. We are known for our extraordinary commitment to clients, for integrated, relationship-based services, and for a range of specialized capabilities typically found only in boutique firms. We are progressive and entrepreneurial compared to other major firms; and we are deeply committed to diversity, to public service, to involvement in the communities we serve and to excellence in all we do, including how to get around extradition requests…

My Name is Khan…Roger Khan

What kind of sentence is Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke likely to get from a US court? Will he tell all? Who will he implicate? An examination of what happened in the case of Guyanese drug baron Roger Khan might provide some clues…


Driving Miss Dudus by Hubert Neal Jr.

Now that Dudus is safely in the hands of the US justice system what can we expect the outcome to be? That is the question in almost everyone’s mind with Observer columnist Lloyd B. Smith even wondering “Should Dudus sing?” in his latest column. What kind of sentence is Dudus likely to get? Will he ‘sing’ and get a reduced sentence? Who will he take down with him? Is anyone in government going to be implicated?

Even if we’re unlikely to know the answers to these questions anytime soon, we might get some clues from looking at other extraditions similar to that of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. In 2006 Samuel “Ninety” Knowles, a Bahamian drug ‘kingpin’ with ties to Jamaica was extradited to the US on charges of “conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute it.” In 2008 a US court sentenced him to 35 years in prison.

Like the Jamaican government the Bahamian government had also dragged its feet before allowing Knowles’ extradition on the grounds that he might not receive a fair trial in the United States. The Jamaican government’s argument in stalling Dudus’s extradition was that the evidence provided by the US to prove that Coke was a trafficker was obtained by wiretapping, allegedly illegal under Jamaican law. Interestingly in his book Police and Crime Control in Jamaica: Problems of Reforming Ex-Colonial Constabularies Anthony Harriott noted that Jamaica citizens may be convicted on illegally obtained evidence with the exception of coerced confessions. (p. 40)

The most notorious drug kingpin of all was Colombian Pablo Escobar of the infamous Medellin Cartel who thumbed his nose at the US for years. Escobar formed a lobby group called Los Extraditables (their slogan: Better a grave in Colombia than a jail in the United States) that bullied the Colombian government “through murder, intimidation and skilful public relations” into repealing the laws allowing extradition of criminals. Escobar then designed a cushy prison for himself in a compound called La Catedral. As Guillermoprieto tells it: “”Despite enormous controversy, the government had finally agreed to Escobar’s terms: he got to choose the prison site, in the hills above his suburban fiefdom of Envigado, and he supervised its security measures. Neither Army troops nor police officers were allowed on the prison grounds, and Escobar personally approved the hiring of half of some fifty guards–the other half to be recruited by the Mayor of Envigado–who were to stand watch over him and his associates.”

In 1992 thinking that the government, which wanted to move him to safer quarters, was going to kill him, Escobar ‘escaped’ from his prison possibly walking out through the back door in women’s clothes. He remained at large until December 1993 when he was shot and killed by Colombian security forces. Alma Guillermoprieto’s book The Heart that Bleeds, from which I got this information, has more details on all this.

Perhaps the most sensational ‘extraditable’ close to home however was Guyanese drug baron Roger Khan who was arrested in Paramaribo, Suriname on June 15, 2006. Wanted in the US for importation of cocaine into that country Khan evaded capture in Guyana by escaping to neighbouring Suriname. In Guyana his close ties to the ruling party, the PPP, had allowed him to escape arrest but in Suriname, a country with a more serious attitude towards law enforcement he was caught by the police and forcibly deported to Guyana via Trinidad and Tobago. He never reached Guyana: The Surinamese Police had evidently tipped off the USDEA who were waiting for Khan at Piarco airport in Trinidad. From there he was flown directly to the US and imprisoned.

Roger Khan was the kind of criminal who makes Dudus look like a pussycat. He allegedly had at his disposal a paramilitary troop known as The Phantom Squad who ruthlessly terrorized and eliminated witnesses and others who stood in his way. Between 2002 and 2006 approximately 200 people are said to have been murdered by the Phantom Squad.


Roger Khan at Brooklyn Federal Court

There were several unique things about the Roger Khan case. Far from admitting to being a criminal Khan took out full page advertisements in Guyanese newspapers claiming that he was actually a crimefighter who had helped both the Guyanese and the US governments during an earlier crime wave. In a further twist during the course of his trial at an East New York district court his high profile lawyer Robert Simels was himself indicted for tampering with witnesses during his defence of Khan.

According to a March 17, 2009 Stabroek News article:

“Since being imprisoned, Khan and the prosecution have made some explosive statements about the inner workings of his criminal enterprise and other matters in Guyana. Khan’s former lawyer, Robert Simels, who, along with his assistant, Arianne Irving, is now his co-defendant in the witness-tampering charge, had stated that US government investigators had learnt that Khan received permission from the Guyana government to purchase surveillance equipment capable of intercepting and tracing telephone calls made from landline or cellular phones. The software is reportedly only sold to governments.”


Roger Khan after arrest in Suriname

The surveillance equipment in question was manufactured by UK firm Smith Myers; its co-director testified in the New York court that “the cellular intercept equipment used by drug kingpin Roger Khan had been sold to the Government of Guyana (GoG), a contention that officials here have repeatedly denied.” This despite the fact that testimony was produced in court showing links between Khan and Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy. Evidence disclosed to the court showed “that the equipment was purchased for and received on behalf of the GOG by Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy. Myers also confirmed that independent contractor, Carl Chapman, traveled to Guyana to train Khan and others in the use of the equipment.”

Among the persons killed for statements intercepted with the surveillance equipment were a popular talk show host Ronald Waddell and a young activist and boxing coach, Donald Allison. According to a Working People’s Alliance press release on July 28, 2009, Selwyn Vaughn, a former member of the notorious Roger Khan phantom squad and now informant for the US government, testified under oath about the involvement of Roger Khan and a high official in the Guyana Government, Minister Leslie Ramsammy, in the execution of PNCR member and political commentator Ronald Waddell and Agricola youth organiser Donald Allison.

For the record Ramsammy has vehemently denied that he has ever had any contact with Khan and said he has no knowledge about the surveillance equipment. As for the execution of talk show host Waddell, according to the New York-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID):

President Bharrat Jagdeo, when asked at a press conference on July 28, to respond to Vaughn’s testimony that Ramsammy had been complicit in the assassination of Waddell, said “Maybe if at the end of the day, all the criminals were to deal with each other we may have a better society but I am not going to sanction that. This is not government policy… but I wouldn’t lose any sleep, frankly speaking, about criminals when they kill each other.” Jagdeo also further said that “If you believe all that this informant is saying you have to also believe that he (Waddell) was a member of the Buxton gang and that he was basically in a criminal enterprise. Waddell was a criminal involved in a criminal enterprise.”

As usual the line between being a criminal and outlaw and being a legitimate businessman who was also a popular self-appointed leader is rather blurred. Khan was said to have “founded and operated a number of successful businesses, including, but not limited to, a housing development and a construction company, a carpet cleaning service, a nightclub, and a timber mill.”

Though repeatedly lobbied and besieged by public interest groups to have the entire sordid state of affairs thoroughly investigated the Guyanese government has resisted. The part that sounds mind-numbingly familiar is the following quote from another article carried in the Stabroek News:

The government so far has resisted all calls for such an inquiry; it can afford to do so because it knows that significant elements of its own constituency regard Roger Khan as a ‘saviour’ of sorts. Our reporter earlier last week sought out comments from the Guyanese diaspora, and of those who agreed to say something in the Liberty Avenue, Queens area (NY), the sentiment was that Khan had “saved” Guyana. One man told her that had it not been for Khan the country would have “gone down the drain”; that the US should not have “kidnapped” him and instead he should have been left to continue the “good things he started.”

Shades of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke and the ‘Don’ or ‘community leader’ phenomenon we know so well in Jamaica. But in Guyana there is an added complication that, mercifully, is absent from Jamaican politics: the vexed issue of race. As a 2009 Village Voice article alleged:

“Khan’s reputation seems to diverge along racial lines in Guyana, where about half the population is of African descent and half of East Indian descent, like him. To many Indo-Guyanese, he is a folk hero, responsible for cleaning up the streets when the country’s police force which is predominantly Afro-Guyanese couldn’t or wouldn’t, giving East Indians, who dominate the business community, a layer of protection where none previously existed. Khan has claimed, without copping to the existence of the Phantoms, to have helped the government put down a crime spree stemming from a 2002 prison break, and to have collaborated with the U.S. government in the region, most notably in the case of the safe retrieval of an American diplomat who was kidnapped off a Guyana golf course in 2003. Afro-Guyanese are more likely to associate Khan first and foremost as a leader of the Phantom Squad, a drug runner and thug, to blame for just about every suspicious death in Guyana. (Guyana, like Suriname, is a transhipping point for South American cocaine destined for North America, Europe, West Africa, and the Caribbean, according to the DEA.)”

Because of his links to the the ruling PPP, Guyanese President Bharat Jagdeo stood accused of being a friend of Khan’s. Whether this is true or not, a story circulating about Khan, who like Dudus also bore the nickname ‘Shortman’, suggests otherwise. According to the tale Khan was in a particular club with friends when Jagdeo suddenly appeared causing him to ejaculate “Oh skunt boy, here cum the Anti-man!” before getting up to greet the President. As my source put it: Explanation: Jagdeo is believed to be gay — ‘skunt’ is a popular swear word in Guyana and ‘Anti-man’ is homophobic abuse for gay men used as an alternative to ‘battyman.

Homophobia: Another trait that Khan shares with the Jamaican badman (despite their willingness to don female clothing when the situation calls for it). There are plenty of parallels in the Roger Khan and Dudus coke sagas. Both Khan and Ninety, the Bahamian drug don also had ties to Jamaica. Those who are hoping that Dudus will sing long and loud in New York, revealing the dirt on organized crime in Jamaica, should bear the following observation by a Stabroek News editorial in mind:

Those who were optimistic that Khan himself might one day supply information about his operations here as well as his connections, must have been disappointed to learn that the likelihood is he will be deported at the end of his sentence. If he knows he has to return to his homeland eventually, it is hardly likely to put him in confessional mode. It is always possible, of course, that further information may trickle out from future trials which will throw some light on the events of a painful period.

Crying out for Peace in Jamaica: The Extradition of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke


Christopher “Dudus” Coke arrives in New York to face drug trafficking charges on Thursday June 24, 2010. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)

In Jamaica farce, intrigue and tragedy remain inextricably intertwined. The fugitive don, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, on the run since May 24th, is finally in the United States where he arrived earlier this evening (see photo above). Coke was intercepted on the outskirts of Kingston on June 22nd by the Jamaican police while they were supposedly conducting random spot checks on passing motorists. There was a J$5 million dollar bounty for information leading to his arrest.

We’re told that he was being escorted by charismatic preacher Reverend Al Miller to the US Embassy in an abortive attempt at surrendering to American authorities who were clamouring for his extradition. We’re also informed that he was sporting a curly black woman’s wig when the police stopped the car and that he thanked them for sparing his life. These are titillating details but who knows if we’ll ever know the whole truth?

Meanwhile jokes abound about the principals in this sordid drama with imaginary headlines such as “Miller to be charged for attempting to export Coke!” being bandied about the public sphere. The irrepressible Reverend has subsequently been charged with harbouring a fugitive but didn’t let that prevent him from going to watch The Karate Kid this evening.

In an irreverend post titled Bad Man Nuh Dress Like Girl Kei Miller ruminated on the reports of cross-dressing by gunmen and dons:

That’s why this sentiment of ‘bad man nuh dress like girl’ is always kind of funny – because in a country where Dudus and the dear departed Natty could wear wigs and frocks whenever their minds took them to do it; and in a country where any tour of dancehall will feature a few male dance crews who always offer, on public display, the most profound and sometimes magical performances of Jamaican queerness; and in a country where bad men run across garrison communities – one hand holding onto their uzi guns, and the other lifting up the hem of their frocks so as not to trip, then we know the real truth – that bad man dress however de rass him want to dress. And that’s exactly what makes them de real bad men.

In a matter of weeks Coke has gone from being the most feared gang leader or strongman in Jamaica to a figure of scorn and ridicule after Police released photos of him wearing a wig and looking like an earnest church-going matron. Many are convinced that the police deliberately placed the wig on his head before photographing him in order to humiliate him and raise doubts about the awesome powers he is supposed to possess.

This morning Coke appeared before a Jamaican Resident Magistrate at a maximum security facility in Kingston. At 2 pm he was flown out of Norman Manley International Airport to New York to face charges of drug and gun running there. The nation which had waited with bated breath to see if Coke would actually leave the island alive heaved a sigh of relief. His ill-fated father, the legendary Jim Brown, was set ablaze in his Kingston cell on the eve of his extradition to the US for similar charges. That was in the nineties.

After the intense military and police activity of the last few weeks, with violent raids being conducted all over Kingston while security forces were desperately seeking Dudus, his final capture and impending extradition seem almost anti-climactic. Only in March this year the Police had worried aloud that the country’s 268 gangs might act in concert to create incidents throughout the country to distract lawmen if there was any attempt to capture Coke. The violent reprisals that accompanied the raid into Coke’s stronghold, Tivoli Gardens, on May 24th have not recurred since his arrest two days ago.

Coke himself seems surprised and grateful at the restraint shown by Jamaican Police when they intercepted the car he was travelling in with Reverend Al Miller on May 22nd. The Police, once famously described by Bob Marley as being “all dressed in uniforms of brutality” seem to have finessed a textbook arrest of the country’s Public Enemy Number One with no shots fired and not a drop of blood shed. This is contrary to the way they normally deal with suspected criminals.

The unexpectedly peaceful capture of the country’s most wanted man, the sustained assault on criminal gangs and their leaders, and the cautious upward movement in the value of the local dollar have given Jamaicans cause for optimism about the future. If there are any successors waiting to pick up the reins after Coke’s departure they have yet to appear. A large number of dons and gang leaders have prudently turned themselves in to police custody since the State of Emergency which has now been extended for another month, was first declared.

Ultimately leaders such as Dudus Coke derive their power from catering to the needs of impoverished communities by providing them with versions of ‘local government’ that the elected government seem disinterested in or unable to supply. If Jamaicans want to prevent their country from slipping back into the clutches of the narco-trade they have to figure out how to deliver democratic governance to all their citizens instead of a chosen few.

Everyone is crying out for peace yes, none is crying out for justice sang Peter Tosh in his famous song Equal Rights. Ultimately its only equal rights and justice, yoked together for all citizens, that will deliver lasting peace in Jamaica.

In the meantime questions linger over why Christopher Coke didn’t turn himself in to Jamaican authorities before May 24th thus saving the 74 lives expended in the military operation to take back Tivoli from the ‘rebels’ who had barricaded it supposedly to defend Coke. It was their alleged attack on four police stations that provoked the intense assault by the Jamaican armed forces in which so many lives were lost in West Kingston.

One version of events has it that this happened just when the Reverend Al Miller was about to accompany Dudus Coke to the US Embassy on or around the 23rd of May. There were reports in the media of meetings between the US authorities and Dudus’s legal team that seemed to have fallen through.

The question is was there a deliberate attempt by interests unknown to sabotage an earlier, potentially peaceful surrender of Coke to the US authorities? By whom and to what purpose? Was there indeed a clash of differing agendas as Tom Tavares-Finson, once again speaking as Dudus’s lawyer today, has suggested? If so, what was the agenda? And whose agenda was it?

Meanwhile Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke remains an intriguing and tragic figure. Except for the unflattering bewigged photo circulated by the police after his arrest Coke was never shown in the Jamaican media wearing handcuffs or otherwise displaying signs of someone whose freedom has been severely curtailed. In contrast the very first photo of Coke after he landed in the US shows him with his arms handcuffed behind him (see photo above). The message is clear; as far as the United States is concerned Coke is a vicious criminal. In Jamaica however, his status is far more ambiguous.

Before appearing in a Kingston court today to waive his right to an extradition hearing in Jamaica Coke issued a statement to the Jamaican public asking them to pray for him:

I have, today, instructed my Attorneys that I intend to waive my right to an extradition hearing in Jamaica and to proceed directly to the United States under the terms of the Extradition Laws and treaty between Jamaica and the United States of America. I have taken this decision of my own free will and have done so even though I am of the belief that my case would have been successfully argued in the Courts of Jamaica. I take this decision for I now believe it to be in the interest of my family, the community of Western Kingston and in particular the people of Tivoli Gardens and above all Jamaica. Everyone, the whole country, has been adversely affected by the process that has surrounded my extradition and I hope that my action today will go some way towards healing all who have suffered and will be of benefit to the community of Tivoli Gardens. Above all I am deeply upset and saddened by the unnecessary loss of lives which could have been avoided, be it of members of the Security Forces and over eighty (80) residents of Tivoli or any other innocent Jamaicans that has occurred during this time. I leave Jamaica and my family in particular Patsy [Coke’s mother] with a heavy heart but fully confident that in due course I will be vindicated and returned to them. Pray for me and God bless Jamaica.

– Christopher Coke

Post-script to Soldiers and Police in Jamaica

Well, the local media have been pipped once again. According to the Guardian (UK) in an article titled From Kabul to Kingston “Army tactics in Jamaica resemble those used in Afghanistan – and it’s no mere coincidence.”

“For two weeks, the Jamaican army and police have fought gun battles in Kingston. The many allegations of human rights abuses committed by the security forces – including extrajudicial killings and the disposal of bodies – have received almost no international attention. Nor have the linkages between the Jamaican crisis, the security establishments in the US, Britain and Canada, and the mutations of the “war on terror”.

But strategy and tactics deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are being applied in Jamaica. Drones fly over Kingston, and were used in the 24 May assault to select targets. On 7 June, Tivoli residents discovered that to enter or leave the area they had to produce “passes” issued by the police (revised, after protests, to restrictions on movement after dark). There is blanket surveillance of electronic communications in breach of Jamaican privacy protections – indeed, it was the illegal provenance of some of the evidence against Christopher “Dudus” Coke that initially held up extradition proceedings.”

In fact in Hubert Neal’s painting mentioned in the previous post he had included the figure of a triangular shaped plane hovering over Kingston Harbour and then attempted to erase it leaving a ghostly shape. The soldiers were quite excited to see this. “The spy plane! the spy plane!” they exclaimed.

One day hopefully we’ll hear the whole nine yards. I’ve thought from the beginning that this was a well-executed plan, with outside assistance, designed to breach the fortress of Tivoli on grounds of capturing Dudus which would bloom into an all-out assault on Dons and their gangs.

The problem is that even in times of uneasy peace the human rights of the poor were routinely violated. How can we assure ourselves that they are not victimized in this so-called war on crime?

Meanwhile in Britain “David Cameron today (June 15) issued a formal, state apology for the “unjustified and unjustifiable” killing of 14 civil rights marchers by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Derry 38 years ago.”

Will we ever have closure here on the killing of 73 civilians in Tivoli on May 24th?

The Don of a New Era Part 2: The Gideon continues


Sign in Barbados

Well, the Gideon (local slang for Armageddon) continues. Last night it seemed as if things in Kingston had simmered down but this morning i checked into Twitter to hear that the armed forces were lobbing grenades and perhaps bombs at a house in E. Kirkland Heights, a very upscale neighbourhood in Red Hills, Kingston. “The template of violence in jamaica has changed ova d las week. Its now an insurgency with all the relevant weaponry” tweeted one of the people i follow. “I wanna see the police deny this one. Grenades an bombs are the new weapon of choice for the state now.”

No idea whether the Police suspect that Dudus is holed up in there or some other Don. Things unravelled very quickly. On May 17th Prime Minister Bruce Golding addressed the nation saying apologetically that he was finally giving the go-ahead for the signing of the papers to extradite Dudus to the US, something he had resisted for 9 months. To many of us it was clear that the US had made him an offer he couldn’t refuse; pressure from the local media, business and other interest groups had also mounted in the weeks leading up to this astonishing about-face.

As i said before Dudus’ lawyer Tom Tavares-Finson was furious. He would take the matter to court the next day he said but the following day we heard that he had removed himself from the team representing Dudus due to conflict of interest issues; issues however that had always existed. All I can say is, do not use this as an excuse to slaughter innocents in Tivoli, an angry Finson was heard saying in interview after interview on radio and tv. His words would prove prophetic.

The day after Golding’s speech it was announced that a warrant had been issued for Dudus’s arrest. That would have been on May 18th. The rest of the week was tense with everyone expecting the Police and Army to invade Tivoli at any minute but the armed forces seemed unusually tolerant, waiting patiently for Dudus to turn himself in. Actually they were waiting till the weekend of the 21st, a long weekend with the 24th being a holiday in Jamaica–Labour Day–to make their move.

On the 23rd a number of colleagues and i were at the airport waiting to catch a flight to Barbados to attend the Caribbean Studies’ Association’s 35th annual conference presciently titled “The Everyday Occurrence of Violence in the Cultural Life of the Caribbean” when i saw a tweet saying that shots were being fired in the vicinity of Tivoli. It’s going down i said to one of my colleagues, a leading Jamaican criminologist, the war is beginning.

I wouldn’t say so he said calmly, assuring us that his information was that Dudus was willing to turn himself in to the US authorities and was expected to do so any minute now. Well, that turned out to be misinformation of the highest quality. By the time we reached Barbados we heard that a state of emergency had been imposed and I’ve literally been glued to Twitter and online media ever since.

In fact I’m happy to report that my tweets were actually picked up by the New York Times blog The Lede in an article called Following Jamaica’s State of Emergency Online. Channel 4 in London contacted me to see if i could write a piece for them on Dudus which i did. My comments appeared in their story Jamaica death toll rises as unrest continues.

Here is an excerpt from it:

Dudus has been an extraordinary provider for the inhabitants of Tivoli.

What makes him exceptional is that he has also managed to forge coalitions between gangs across party lines and across the country when needed because of the respect he commands. His reach extends beyond his immediate community across all kinds of borders and is a testament to his abilities as an astute leader.

Had he been legit and able to run for election he would have probably created a modern, efficient Jamaica the likes of which have yet to be seen, but of course one where personal freedoms may have been more circumscribed than they are today.

The problem is his links to the underworld do not permit the state to continue the tacit alliance with him and others like him that have persisted to this day.

The question is how do you take the milk out of the coffee once the two have been mixed. That is the predicament Jamaica finds itself in.

Meanwhile the Gideon continues and while many of us would like to comfort ourselves by thinking that this is a necessary bloodletting, a purge of the criminal elements in society, the truth is otherwise. Discriminating between criminals and law-abiding citizens is not as easy as we think particularly for the Police force, members of which are known to wield their ‘license to kill’ with wanton disregard. i received a heartbreaking message from a friend about the execution of a young man she personally knew, by the police, a story which was reported in the media under the headline “Cops kill three men in Back Bush.”

One of the men was well-known to my friend and no criminal. Here is part of the heartbreaking message i received from her this morning:

“Picked up one of my neighbours on the road only to hear that Ian Gordon, a sweet young dread who ran a little “venue” in Irish Town square was killed by the police. Hard to believe he would be involved in anything – he would always ask me if I had dominos, or other games, that I could give him because he liked to have lots of games for people coming to his place. On Sundays I would sometimes take him down to town and he always said he was going to visit his 2 daughters. He had a lovely girlfriend, also a dread, and it was a joke in Irish Town how they were always together. Anyway I’m sure this Observer story of how he died is accurate, and this is probably happening to young men all over Kingston. Very depressing. “

It turns out also that the early morning raid on Red Hills i mentioned earlier was in pursuit of Dudus who was believed to be holed up in a house there. In the process of flushing him out the armed forces have killed another innocent man, Keith Clarke, the brother of former minister Claude Clarke, who lived nearby, by mistake.

Mr. Seaga, former Prime Minister is also concerned about the safety of the residents of Tivoli Gardens, his former constituents and has broken his silence. I conducted an interview with him in January this year in which i asked him about his relationship with Dudus and the fact that he had once placed him at the top of a list of wanted men that he provided the Police with in 1994. I’ll post relevant portions of the interview later.

Time doesn’t permit for me to write much more right now. I’m still at the conference in Barbados but will end with two lighthearted takes on what is a truly dread situation back home, (to use Jamaican parlance).

The photo posted at the top of this blog is actually a piece of graffiti seen in Barbados on the day the armed forces went into Tivoli Gardens in pursuit of Christopher Lloyd Coke–Dudus. The blog that carried it said “This sign was seen today (Monday May 24 Bank Holiday) on the left-hand side of Collymore Rock Road going towards Wildey from Bridgetown.” Dudus’s reach clearly extends beyond Jamaican shores.

And of course Jamaicans being Jamaican still have a mordant sense of humour. The following dance poster was making the rounds on email and facebook.

Bradygate continued…

Update: Today was the most unsettling exciting day in the last decade or so. Around 3 pm started to hear rumours that ‘war’ was going to break out because the Prime Minister was going to announce that the extradition proceedings agaist ‘Dudus’ Coke were going forward. A feeling of panic began to spread and there was a stampede to get out of downtown where the rumours started circulating around 11 in the morning. By mid-afternoon everyone was on the road trying to reach a safe place. Top 10 ways to get home quickly proclaimed a blog…

The most interesting thing was that the US Embassy sent out an announcement saying a talk it had planned to hold at the Institute of Jamaica tomorrow was being postponed. I found the title of the talk interesting. It was called “Congress and the President: An Invitation to Conflict” and should have been delivered by one Don Baker. hmmmmmmmm. Doesn’t Bruce own a bakery?

At the appointed hour Bruce Golding addressed the nation looking suitably contrite and apologizing profusely. Then he announced that the Attorney General was going to sign the relevant papers so that the extradition could proceed. Dudus’ lawyer, Tom Tavares-Finson was reputed to be livid with anger; he would defend his client in court he said.

More on the runnings tomorrow. Time for bed now…