Kingston was in a state of emergency this morning after gangsters fired on four police stations in the Jamaican capital, lashing out against a move to extradite an alleged drug lord to the United States.
One of the stations was set ablaze, an officer was wounded, and a civilian was killed in attacks around the city. Meanwhile, supporters of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, wanted in New York on charges of arms and drug trafficking, descended from the barricaded slum of Tivoli Gardens to help defend him. At least two security officials have been wounded.
The violence, to some degree, was expected. The US State Department warned in advance on its website that heightened danger would likely follow the May 17 announcement by Bruce Golding, Jamaican prime minister, of support for Mr. Coke’s extradition. Canada and Britain also issued travel alerts Friday.
But the authorities appear to have been caught flat-footed, writes the Jamaica Observer.
To begin with, how is it that criminals and their supporters in and around Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston were able to set up massive barricades blocking entrance to the community without the immediate or pre-emptive intervention of the security forces? And how is it that a large protest march which we assume was unauthorised was allowed to proceed through the streets of downtown Kingston with a section of that march coming within hailing distance of the parliament building? …
Could it be that at an operational level, the police High Command is so lacking in vision and proactive capacity that it did not rehearse and plan for the events of last week? Or is it that the much-pronounced operational independence of the police is no more than a poorly-constructed mirage.
In a separate report, the Observer notes that police were trying to minimize casualties by evacuating the slum’s “law-abiding residents.” But buses provided by the authorities were sitting empty, a sign that residents had either been coerced to stay or were too frightened to leave their homes.
Jamaica is no stranger to violence. The Christian Science Monitor reports that in 2005, the nation saw 1,669 homicides, putting in it in the running for highest per capita murder rate, alongside South Africa and Colombia.
The strength of Jamaican gangs dates partially from the 1970s, when Jamaica’s two main political parties linked up with gangsters, who provided electoral muscle by controlling the votes in their communities in exchange for patronage and guns. Mr. Coke has ties to the ruling Jamaica Labor Party, according to the Associated Press, and holds sway over the West Kingston area represented in parliament by Mr. Golding. Golding has stalled Coke’s extradition for the past nine months on the grounds that evidence against him was obtained through illegal wiretapping
In a letter to the Jamaica Gleaner, one reader writes that the country is awakening “to the nightmarish reality of one politically created stronghold holding the entire country at the edge of terror and chaos.”
Is it true that our Jamaican political parties sanction the activities of ‘area dons’, gang leaders, etc, in unnamed constituencies and only seek to ‘eliminate’ them when the relationship backfires in their faces?
What sense does it make then, if (successive governments) spout crime-fighting strategies (knocking the desks in Parliament, etc) but then they undermine said strategies? Which of our parliamentarians are among those knocking fists, rubbing shoulders with and hugging up alleged criminals?
We need answers from our leaders; they should be the ones to tell us.