Tivoli weeps – Residents cite poor conditions, blast Golding, security forces

A resident of Tivoli Gardens weeps at her fence yesterday during a media tour of the West Kingston community where gunmen engaged soldiers in fierce clashes on Monday and Tuesday.

RESIDENTS of Tivoli Gardens wept openly, chided some members of the security forces and threw verbal blows at their member of parliament, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, when some of them got their first chance to vent their anger during a media tour of the troubled inner-city community yesterday.

With the smell of rotting flesh permeating the air at sections of the community, soldiers and police escorts took media personnel through selected places, most of the time having to endure verbal onslaughts by residents.

Bullet-riddled buildings were a feature of the ageing, dilapidated structures, which were further devalued by uncollected garbage.

Melissa Walker, aged 16, a 10th grade student at Dunoon Park Technical High School in East Kingston, said that she was traumatised by the series of activities that has left over 70 people dead by police records.

“The whole thing is affecting me badly. I just want them to come out,” she said, pointing to security personnel. “I want them to leave. We can’t take it anymore. They fire shots in my house, kicked off my door and say that we have guns inside. They even say they will box up my cousin,” she said, pointing to a girl of about age five.

“I felt afraid when I heard the shots firing. I want it to end,” she said.

Middle-aged Marcia White, who told the Observer that her brother, Joseph White, and nephew Christopher Gaynor were missing, said that she feared the worst.

“I don’t know what happen to them. I can’t hear anything,” she said.

A woman who said that she was O’Neil ‘Doe Doe’ Williams’ mother, said that she had not seen her son since the shooting started on Monday.

“Murder, murder, murder,” she chanted as she fell to the ground. “Me want go see me son. Dem tek way me son, murder, me want see me son.”

A golden ager in her rocking chair looked out and remarked:

“Jesus, my God. What is this my God. Almighty God, have mercy. A can’t take what is going on.”

Along the route that looked more like an army base than a community that is regarded as the stronghold of alleged drug lord and weapons dealer Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, the citizens continued their verbal broadsides at the security forces in general, but mainly the police.

There were still some who saw Coke as a messiah, one who did nothing to warrant the kind of violent transformation that the community had seen since the start of the week and left it having to conform to the rigidity of the limited State of Public Emergency imposed on Kingston adn St Andrew, the Jamaican capital which sits more than 100 miles east of the tourist resort city of Montego Bay.

Coke, 42, who is wanted by police to face a court hearing that could eventually see him extradited to the United States to answer charges related to drug-trafficking and arms dealing, remained at large up to last night, although rumour after rumour connected him to hiding places in almost every parish in Jamaica.

He is regarded as having run an alternative government within West Kingston and is said to have his own militia, which has mounted several challenges to security forces over the last four days.

“Freedom, deliverance. The soldier dem don’t bad, but the police dem a wicked, them a evil,” some Tivoli residents shouted as media personnel walked close to military and police escorts.

The media were not allowed to go into individual apartments in the community of high-rise buildings, as soldiers manned the entrances.

The residents, mainly women, nonetheless shouted from the entrances, some of them in a desperate bid to get external attention.

“Oonu can’t come inna de house? Oonu come in nuh. Me want oonu fe hear wey me a say,” one woman beseeched, pushing her head adjacent to a soldier’s rifle.

Another group of mainly women across the building shouted: “Come, come, come ya so nuh.”

But there was one woman who was not too happy to see the media.

“You are all hypocrites,” the woman clad in white fumed.

“They mash up the people’s houses, the children are devastated. They can’t eat. I can’t even get to go out to work. I am a contractor/cleaner at Coronation Market and can’t get to work. I paid for my son’s CXC exams and he can’t get to take it,” she said.

Even dogs seem angry at the security forces. Their consistent barks whenever the men with legal guns got close, appeared to be another view that they were not welcome there.

From some buildings people waved at journalists and shouted their displeasure at the security exercise.

“We are traumatised,” one said.

“We not doing so good, we wish we coulda do whey you a do, walk pon road. We hungry,” shouted another.

Few men ventured outdoor. A Rastafarian nodded and shouted “Yes I” as media personnel passed his gate.

One man, who said that he had been deported from the United States, attracted an audience as he vented his anger, before being told by a soldier to stay on the sidewalk.

“They want to destroy our country. It’s not right. I suffered a lot of gunshot wounds in America and then they deport me back to Jamaica,” he said, raising his T-shirt to show several scars.

“What happen to our prime minister?” he asked.

An elderly woman wept as she rocked on a chair at her ground floor home. Her relatives said that she had been crying since the stand-off started.

Another close by said that shortage of food was her main problem. She had missed the delivery of food arranged by Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair the previous day.

Children joining in a chorus around the corner got something off their chests. “We don’t get to go to school. We want to go to school,” they said.

A woman from the Lizard Town section of the community, close to the Coronation Market, echoed one of the prevailing views: “We no want no Bruce,” she said in reference to MP and Prime Minister Golding, whom she and others before said had not visited them in their time of need.

“No Bruce Golding, no voting. Bruce gwaan. All when we dead we no want you,” said another woman.

“We no want Bruce round ya. We no want him round ya. Bruce Golding go back to NDM,” a third woman blurted out.

Apart from complaints about the behaviour of security personnel, the whereabouts of loved ones and friends was a major concern of the citizens.

Among a group of women gathered on a corner one said: “Me have mi two son and no know what happen to them. Them take way mi phone and me can’t mek no call.”

Said another: “The soldier dem nice to wi, but a di police dem a harass we,” prompting spontaneous chants of “We want soljie, we want soljie, we no want no police”.

One soldier, who accompanied the media, said that his colleagues have always acted professionally: “We treat them good, man. We try to be nice to them,” the private said.

Tour leader, Major Richard Blackwood, the JDF’s information officer, declined to directly address the citizens’ claim of abuse by some security personnel.

“We are allowing the media to come in to view the area. Residents are not restricted in any way, shape or form, in terms of what they want to say or want to express. They are free to express themselves as citizens of the country,” Major Blackwood said.

Police spokesman Steve Brown opted not to comment.

And there were unanswered questions about reports that women and children had been killed by security personnel.

“A lot of women dead. What them do with the women them,” asked a teenaged girl. “We can’t find some women and children. Some of the soldiers force the pickney them to pick up the bodies off the streets and when them refuse, them beat them. A policeman come to me and say him a go thump me inna me mouth fi no reason.”

The stories continued along the journey:

“Them kill two man inna mi house along Block C.

“Them tek us out and put we inna another house and then them shoot the two man them. Them even kill a man inna that man house,” said one woman, pointing to a man next to her.

“Them search my house and mash up mi furniture. Mi just buy a new fan for $5,000 last week and them mash up that too,” another said.

Along Bustamante Highway, the first shop that was open appeared to be doing fair business.

A handful of citizens who got the chance to venture out, bought basic items from the One Stop at Tiny ‘Delli’ along the roadway.

“Business no bad, because them (security forces) a let people out fi come and buy,” the proprietor said in-between glances at security personnel.

A well-spoken, mature woman standing on the verandah of her Bustamante Highway apartment chipped in: “I don’t know when I am going to get over this. Trust me! I can’t get any water to wash, I am sick, oh it’s too much to bear.”

Two other shops along the road were also doing business, although it appeared that the potential for a major sales blitz remained a remote one.

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