Misremembering Tivoli


A blogger friend in Guyana, Mark Jacobs, used this word in the context of a tragic event in his own country: The unsolved murder of a human rights activist just before the general elections of May 11, 2015.

Mark starts his latest blog post thus:

because you have choose to misremember, don’t think everyone else has
to know is pain
and your ignorance will not suffocate me

In the last few days, it has become increasingly apparent to me that Jamaica (and in particular local media) has chosen to misremember the massacre at Tivoli Gardens of May, 2010, in which at least 74 Jamaicans died. It has been six years, and clearly Jamaicans have exhausted their remembering capabilities; and perhaps for many, their compassion. Are we so inured to violence? Is the media so preoccupied with the “here and now” that it cannot stop and look back?

"Marjorie Hinds was out buying food in Tivoli Gardens on the morning of May 24, 2010, when the security forces moved in." Illustration by Owen Smith, The New Yorker. This accompanied an article by December 11, 2011 article by Mattathias Schwartz, headlined "A Massacre in Jamaica."
“Marjorie Hinds was out buying food in Tivoli Gardens on the morning of May 24, 2010, when the security forces moved in.” Illustration by Owen Smith, The New Yorker. This accompanied an article by December 12, 2011 article by Mattathias Schwartz, headlined “A Massacre in Jamaica.”

I spoke to my friend and fellow blogger Susan Goffe, who has followed the proceedings of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry very closely. Here she is speaking in her personal capacity, not representing any organization:

6 years is a long time for people to be waiting, but in Jamaica the journey to truth and justice routinely seems to be a long one. More than 70 people killed, many others injured and countless others traumatised. And additionally the damage to property. And 6 years on, people are still waiting. As a country, we can pretend to move on, but we will never really be able to without justice for the damage done. Now we are waiting for the report of the Commission of Enquiry, but we must remember that the report is not the end of the process. The process continues beyond the delivery of the report.

The human rights lobby group, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), issued this statement on May 20. I am sorry I did not post it earlier, due to my illness. But this is an issue of deep concern:

Jamaicans for Justice logo.
Jamaicans for Justice logo.

Jamaicans For Justice is deeply concerned that after this May 24-26, anniversary of a terrible loss of life, the citizens of Tivoli Gardens and West Kingston will be unable to bring civil action against the Crown for damages it inflicted on them in 2010. This is because of the six-year limit imposed by the Statute of Limitations, of which many attorneys-at-law have advised.

The damages allegedly inflicted were numerous and extreme. They included damage to property, unjust detention, loss of income, severe bodily and psychological injury, profound suffering, loss of life, and trauma that continues among children. It was the community of Tivoli Gardens as well as its individual members that had the terrifying experience of May 2010. By the Office of the Public Defender’s (OPD) count, for example, the number detained without sufficient reason was over 4,000.

The  OPD has given considerable substance to these claims in its Submissions and Recommendations to the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. It identifies by name 19 persons as having been murdered by security officers and indicates that another 27 of the 74 or 75 civilians who died suffered probably the same fate. As the OPD has emphasized, they had their right to life cruelly violated. This is in addition to many other rights violations by agents of the State.

The Public Defender has accordingly proposed that the Commission of Enquiry recommend, in addition to a public apology by the Government, compensation for the violation of the rights of West Kingston citizens, and that it waive the limit on civil action in settling claims. JFJ supports this proposition and urges an early confirmation of it.

We do not yet know, of course, what outturns will come. In the meantime, we look forward keenly to having the Commission’s Report any day now. We are firmly of the view that West Kingston citizens deserve to be able to take such means as they consider appropriate for assessing all possible claims arising from the State of Emergency of May and June, 2010, West Kingston.

Well, we love to quote our National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey – who did mention that we should know and understand our past. This is our recent past. Here is something else Mr. Garvey said, which in a way I find quite relevant:

Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people.

Residents carry a wounded man into Kingston Public Hospital during the incursion by security forces in Tivoli Gardens. (Photo: Guardian UK)
Residents carry a wounded man into Kingston Public Hospital during the incursion by security forces in Tivoli Gardens. (Photo: Guardian UK)

4 thoughts on “Misremembering Tivoli

  1. Reblogged this on mark jacobs lives! and commented:
    caribbean killing fields newsflash!!
    i recall watching the highlights of this in horror thinkin dem big negroes in jamaica done lost dem minds
    it’s six years aready since the jamaican govt engaged in mass slaughter in their hunt for dudus coke

    Like

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