Witter to probe army strike

Security personnel walk past sandbag defences mounted by Tivoli militiamen

THE Golding administration has announced an independent enquiry into the security operation in Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town in west Kingston which left at least 73 civilians dead and three members of the security forces killed.

Public Defender Earl Witter and a team to be selected by him will carry out a probe into what is being described by some as the largest casualty figure arising from a security-force operation in Jamaica.

“The Government will be having independent investigations on all police-military operations taking place to date. That will be the starting point,” Information Minister Daryl Vaz told journalists yesterday at a press conference at the Hilton hotel in New Kingston.

The investigation comes as the Government yesterday expressed concern about alleged reports of misconduct in the security operation in Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town.

“These vary from mistreatment of citizens to innocent persons being killed. The Government is committed and insistent that the rights of citizens be respected and observed,” Vaz stated.

He said the public defender would set up office in Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town to provide easy access to residents who wanted to make complaints.

Staff and resources would be made available to Witter to carry out his job, Vaz added.

In the wake of the major security exercise, six firearms were seized – four rifles and two pistols. Just under 8,000 rounds of assorted ammunition were recovered in the operation.

“The operation is continuing and we are endeavouring to recover as many of those arms, as we are quite certain some still remain in the area of operation,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds asserted.

Up to yesterday, 26 civilians and 28 law enforcers were wounded in the massive operation, which had the chief aim of arresting alleged drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.

At the same time, it was revealed that 560 persons were detained from Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town. The detainees were being processed by a team organised by the Police High Command.

Hinds said the police had set up an information panel comprising the assistant commissioner in charge of the Criminal Investigation Branch, a senior superintendent of police of the Operations Branch, a superintendent from the Intelligence Branch as well as a representative from the Peace Management Initiative.

He said persons who were not wanted by the police would be released.

Meanwhile, effective yesterday afternoon, residents of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town had been given the green light to leave their communities or go about their lawful business.

The restrictions were lifted after days of fierce conflict between members of the security forces and alleged gunmen.

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