SOMETHING is obviously amiss with Owen Ellington’s sudden departure as head of the police force. That is perhaps a secret between himself and his political bosses in the government which may or may never be revealed.
For the moment, however, we need not detain ourselves with speculation. What needs to be focused on is the very incriminating reasons given by Ellington for his decision to step down.
Ellington says he is stepping down because he needs to separate himself from “from the leadership and management of the force prior to the commencement of the upcoming commission of Enquiry into the conduct of the operations of the security forces in Western Kingston and other areas during the limited State of Emergency in 2010″.
The Tivoli Committee has long taken the position that Ellington should either have been fired or done the honourable thing and resign as police commissioner immediately after the Tivoli Gardens massacre.
It took him four years to do the honourable thing while his boss Peter Bunting seems to have been on his knees praying for divine guidance rather than showing leadership. According to Bunting: “He was not pushed out….I was satisfied with his performance.”
The fact is that Ellington should have long been the subject of a criminal investigation into his role as police commander of the Tivoli operations. The fact that the investigating arm of the police did no investigation has to be laid squarely at the feet of Owen Ellington.
Had he resigned immediately it would have been far easier for Bunting to agree with the Tivoli Committee’s demand that not only should Ellington be investigated for the crimes against humanity that were committed by the security forces, but that the matter should be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Having now done the “honourable” thing it might be a little too late since the die is cast. The terms of reference have been decided upon by the government, and there is no indication that there will be anything other than a perfunctory look at Ellington’s role in the whole affair. The commissioners have not been tasked with specifically investigating his role as commander. And the government has given no indication that it is disposed to sending the matter to the ICC.
Additionally, the Tivoli Committee believes that even at this late stage, the example of Ellington separating himself from the management and leadership of the force so as to minimize any obstructionist role that he could play in the enquiry, should also apply Assistant Commissioner Glenmore Hinds. He was the ground commander and now as commissioner he has the power to obstruct and he should also step aside or be fired.
Ellington also cites the need for there to be no perception of him having any “influence” or “interference” with the ongoing INDECOM probe into police death squads operating out of May Pen Clarendon. Like the Tivoli matter, this is also a little late in the day since this investigation has been ongoing on for many months.
It would be interesting, however, to hear what is INDECOM’s perception of the role Ellington has played in their investigations so far, or his involvement in the matter.
Finally, Ellington makes it clear, that Major General Stewart Saunders, former head of the JDF, and military commander of the Tivoli, should also resign or be fired from his post as permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security.
The same principle applies. As the subject of a potential criminal enquiry Saunders should never have been appointed to this position which gives him opportunity to obstruct and shape the enquiry to suit himself.
In the final analysis, the blame for this fiasco must rest squarely on the shoulders of minister Peter Bunting. He has shown scant regard or concern for the seriousness of the crimes committed in Tivoli Gardens, and this is exemplified in no greater way than his seeming attempt to protect the two major players in that massacre.
We believe that he should also resign or be fired. It is the ethical thing to do.
By getting rid of Ellington, Saunders and Bunting, it may be possible to revisit the terms of reference with a different approach, devoid of the temptation for corruption.
on behalf of the
IF it is true that our “international partners” have evidence against police commissioner Owen Ellington that required revoking his visa and forcing him into early retirement, then obviously the charges must be quite serious and compelling. See Gleaner “External pressure — Int’l partners keep close watch on ‘death squad’ probe; US assistance to JCF under review
It therefore stands to reason that these serious allegations must also involve violation of Jamaican laws as well and would, under normal circumstances, warrant an immediate criminal probe of Ellington by Jamaican authorities. But once again, who are these Jamaican authorities to launch such a criminal probe: the police? the Cabinet? the prime minister? Peter Bunting? the DPP? INDECOM? Complicity is the name of the game.
If INDECOM, for example, is investigating Ellington, which it has neither confirmed nor denied, then it is incumbent on them to say so. Owen Ellington is not an ordinary policeman. He was the head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and must be held to a higher standard of accountability. The standard used by international partners should be no less the standard used by the Jamaican state.
If for some reason INDECOM believes that it is under constraint to be direct with the people then the government is under no such constraint.
To withhold information from the public and to do nothing about Ellington is to be complicit with whatever crimes Ellington may have committed. If it were not complicit, then the government would be duty bound to comprehensively and truthfully inform the public and to ensure that the relevant arms of the state vigorously investigate Ellington based on the information provided by “international partners”.
Government approach so far indicates that it is complicit, and is defending Ellington as best it can. Otherwise, Ellington’s four million a year retirement would have been blocked, he would have been suspended, and an investigation launched. Or, the evidence provided by international partners, accepted at face value.
By having stuck with Ellington, this PNP government, strengthens the argument, that it like previous governments, orange and green, gives the police and the army the right to commit extrajudicial killings with the full assurance of impunity.
We focus on extrajudicial killings because Ellington himself has opened the door to that discussion by pointing to the Tivoli Gardens massacre and the INDECOM death squad investigation as the reasons why he is leaving. He is inviting an investigation of these matters free from his possible influence and interference. A little too late perhaps.
As the Tivoli Committee has previously stated, Peter Bunting has lost the moral authority to continue being the minister of national security because serious crimes committed by Ellington could not have happened without his knowledge, or his duty to know.
He has protected and succoured Ellington from the very beginning, just as he has done with Major General Stewart Saunders, former head of the JDF, a person of major interest in the Tivoli Gardens massacre. Bunting must go!
INDECOM at this time has a special responsibility to the people of this country and cannot continue with its narrow-minded, legalistic approach to extrajudicial killings.
A public enquiry into the decades-old Jamaican state policy of impunity for police extrajudicial killings must be held. INDECOM has the power to hold such a public enquiry. The policy has to be unbared publicly in order for a new policy and a new culture to emerge.
INDECOM is foolish to believe that it can get past the DPP with any death squad investigation because that body is an extension of the JCF, not the other way around. See — “Death squad holes — DPP to reassess Clarendon murder cases”; “DPP won’t press Canada for ex-cop’s extradition”.
We therefore call upon INDECOM once again, to hold a public enquiry into the state policy extrajudicial killings.
If INDECOM fails the country, it leaves the public with no other choice but to conclude that INDECOM itself is part of the circle of impunity.
It leaves the public with no choice but to label high state officials as complicit with murder and terrorism. The logic of this argument cannot have escaped our international partners.
EMPRESS CHRISTINE LAGARDE — International Monetary Farce – has come to Jamaica to assure her faithful officials that she is mighty pleased with the way they are screwing the subjects in order to make sure that creditors, international and of course local ones, get their pound of flesh.
The JLP grumbled about devaluation but was proud that Lagarde saw them as a responsible opposition — which is exactly what she came to counsel them about — to ensure that her grateful officials (US$400 million loaned so far), loyally support the plan to screw the people, even while allowance is made for a little political posturing here and there. She was not to be disappointed. “I also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the private sector, labor unions and opposition. I was impressed by the high degree of consensus and awareness on the need to reform Jamaica’s economy….”
The head of the UWI economics department, Dr Damien King, clothed in a demeanour to suggest economic intelligence, introduced Lagarde as only well-trained house slaves can do, masking his intellectual grovelling with common place Economics 101 observations. God bless the poor young minds at UWI being groomed for a future life as Economist clowns.
Lagarde was at her partonizing best, as was to be expected. She approvingly mentioned Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Bob Marley and Tessanne Chin and Claude McKay — but not Juan de Serras (who was the ultimate Maroon warrior) and Tacky (who terrorized planters in St Mary) and Sam Sharpe (the man who could have been a Toussaint L’Ouverture) and even George William Gordon (Governor Eyre’s constant irritant) — all of whom most symbolize the future — i.e. a non-grovelling, revolutionary struggle against a neo-colonial form of deception and oppression which Lagarde represents.
The highlight of Lagarde’s very polished attempt at deception was of course that she mentioned but never analyzed the “unsustainable” level of debt.
She wants to give the impression that “growth” will result from the grinding sacrifice by the people, and in so far as that happens, all is well. A typical Anancy story if ever there was one.
Lagarde, as the face card for international finance capital, knows that economic growth is possible with a little statistical manipulation, but it is sustainable economic development which the people want, and for which they are being forced to sacrifice, in vain.
For starters the debt will never stop being an obstacle to development unless it is repudiated and all that that implies. Lagarde’s IMF policies is the very antithesis of sustainable economic development and hence for her the idea of repudiation is tantamount to treason.
Thus, she is here to assure her faithful officials never to entertain such ideas which can only come from discontented and ungrateful subjects. Her dutiful finance minister gets it. He shakes in his boots at the thought that repudiation would create a cash economy! [Stated in response to a journalist's question].
Lagarde presents herself as the moderate alternative to potential ingrates because she is also against global income inequality (so she says!); she mouths stuff about the perils of climate change; and of course she wants equality for women; and protection for the poorest (i.e. PATH — wow!); and for that frightened UWI student who sees government cuts potentially hampering his education –she expresses a hope that the finance minister will see education as the path to growth. How enlightening and progressive but what a piece of cant!
The biggest contradiction and even hypocrisy is the fact that the IMF has expressed opposition to US courts scuttling the deal that Argentina made with its creditors after having repudiated their public debt, and forcing creditors to accept a radical reduction in the debt Argentina is prepared to pay them.
Of course that is something not to be publicly discussed as part of the options available to Jamaica.
Despite the carefully crafted show, Lagarde and her Jamaican courtiers may fool a few gullible ones, but not the vast majority of the people who are daily burdened by oppressive austerity measures. The daily cry for justice continues.
No wonder Her Imperial Highness and her courtiers did not want questions asked. Correction, they allowed about four questions which Lagarde waffled over showing that even Gods have intellectual limits.
Common sense tell us though, that the debt is not only unsustainable, it cannot be repaid. It must be repudiated if only for the reason that most of it is odious, illegitimate, or constitute irresponsible lending by those who want to enslave us.
Christine Lagarde is only a show. The real struggle over unsustainable debt that must be repudiated continues.
Campaign for Social and Economic Justice (CSEJ)
THE FOLLOWING are notes for my Sunday May 23, 2010 radio progamme “Looking Back Looking Forward” on Newstalk 93 FM.
UNKNOWN to me at the time (9 AM) prime minister Bruce Golding would that evening declare a state of emergency signalling the beginning of the security forces Counterinsurgency Assault on Tivoli Gardens and west Kingston. Indeed, by the end of the programme (11 AM), I was beginning to get reports of a massive security forces build up in the area and, by the following day, reports of atrocities being committed by the security forces.
THESE Notes are being released to assist with public reflection on the senseless violence unleashed on the residents by prime minister Bruce Golding, National Security Minister Dwight Nelson, police commissioner Owen Ellilngton, and former head of the army Major General Stewart Saunders. Jamaica must not rest until they are held to account for this criminal massacre of innocent people.
HELLO and welcome to Looking Back Looking Forward, a discussion programme, reviewing and highlighting some of the past week’s local and international events.
POLICE COMMISSIONER HARDLEY LEWIN AND THE CASE OF THE RED HERRING CONSTABLE
• The Case of the Red Herring Constable… that is the new twist in this Dudus Extradition matter.
• FORMER Police Commissioner Hardley Lewin says that the police constable formerly known as Constable Doe who gave the US legally obtained wire tap evidence against Mr. Christopher Coke, did so with the permission of the police chain of command.
• Do you understand what that means? It means that whoever above the rank of this constable who gave him the permission to give the wiretap evidence to the US did it with the permission of the Police High Command.
• So logically Commissioner Hardley Lewin must have given the green light for releasing it to the US.
• If that is so, Police Commissioner, why can’t you just be a big man and say: “I Police Commissioner Hardley Lewin, acting as it was my legal authority to do, ordered the turning over of the wiretap evidence against Mr. Christopher Dudus Coke to the American authorities.”
• Plain and simple
• You said you had regular meetings with the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security: So did you say to them “hey guys, by the way the Americans now have some very damaging information on your good friend Mr. Dudus Coke, which I authorized to be turned over to them.”
• You obviously did not do that Mr. Lewin, because otherwise I cannot see how the Prime Minister would have made such a fool of himself talking about the Americans having illegally obtained the evidence against Mr. Coke.
• But two questions arise Commissioner Lewin: Why did you turn over the wiretap evidence in such a surreptitious way?
• What were you afraid of?
• Because based on the cooperation agreement between the US and Jamaica you had every right to turn over the information.
• But, most important: You could also have taken a decision to indict Mr. Coke under Jamaican laws.
• Why was this not done?.
• Commissioner Hardley Lewin owes the country an explanation.
• The TVJ people obviously did not ask him these questions. Some time ago I tried to get Commissioner Lewin to come on the Evening Edition to have a discussion with me about his role in the matter and he declined.
• Well now that he has decided to go public I am hoping that he will accept my invitation to come on this programme or on the Evening Edition to have a discussion with us about the whole matter. The country wants to know. The country needs to know.
THE MARCH TO WAR IN TIVOLI GARDENS
• SO with the Prime Minister making a 180 degree turn — – authorizing the Attorney General to proceed with the extradition request… without giving any explanation as to why –
• The question is: Who won the first round of the showdown over the arrest of Mr. Coke?
• It is clear that it is not going to be that simple to arrest Coke: His defenders in Tivoli have put up barricades. AND, if the newspapers are to be believed, AND they can’t always be believed, armed men are now openly patrolling the streets of TIVOLI.
• Anywhere in the world … the state would consider this a highly provocative move.
• The state is supposed to have the monopoly on violence and unimpeded access to any area under its control.
• In the case of Tivoli and parts of Denham Town the State does not as we speak have total control they are being challenged by forces loyal to Dudus.
• So who won the first round… I declare that it was a draw.
• First the state, represented by the security forces realize that it would not be good public relations to storm Tivoli, not being sure that Dudus is there; and then go in and do harm to innocent citizens … especially women and children — as has been the case in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2007.
• That famous Chinese theoretician, Sun Tzu on how fight a war — his sayings are gathered in a book called The Art of War– says
• “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.”
• So in that sense the State is TRYING TO WIN THE BATTLE FOR PUBLIC OPINION; FOR THE hearts and minds of the people as the Americans would say
• IT IS biding its time until the right time to move. It is trying to show the public that it is patient; that it is prudent; that it will not move until it has exhausted all peaceful options; THAT it will only move when THE PROVOCATION HAS GONE ON LONG ENOUGH; AND HAS NO other OPTION.
• Armoured carriers are patrolling in the area.. one has been shot at for example … and without any reaction from the army…. so said the NEWSPAPERS.
• So the state is appearing to be reasonable….
• Especially so since the MP for the Area Mr. Bruce Golding has already appealed to the residents to remove the road blocks and allow the police to carry out their lawful duty.
• THE MP is on the side of law and order.
• ON the other hand the embattled residents and defenders are taking a cue from Sun Tzu as well
• According to Sun Tzu
• “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
• So they organized a demonstration with hundreds of women dressed in white
• Essentially those women said… We love Dudus; Dudus is good to us; He sends our children to school; He takes care of us when the state doesn’t; He is a peaceful Man; NO one is taking away our cell phones; We are free to leave and enter into Tivoli ; We love him after God; Leave him alone; We are prepared to die for him.”
• That was a powerful message I thought and so a COMBINATION OF wise PATIENCE ON THE PART OF THE STATE
• Plus THE EMERGENCE OF THESE BEAUTIFUL, LOVABLE WOMEN DEMONSTRATING THEIR LOVE FOR DUDUS /// WANTING only PEACE… BUT WILLING TO DIE FOR HIM //creates a situation where the State CANNOT use the pretext of law and order to UNLEASH violence against them. [EVEN THOUGH THEY DID]
• BECAUSE if they do…. THEY MIGHT WIN THE BATTLE but would have lost the BIGGER war… and that is the danger for the state.
• An unwise precipitous move would give all COMMUNITIES sympathetic to DUDUS for one reason or another the MORAL reason to lash out at the state.
• We must also remember that so far the STATE despite it’s practice and POLICY of EXTRAJUDICIAL killings has been EXTREMELY lucky in not UNITING CRIMINAL gunmen to fight the state…
• They have had no political cause to unite… CRIMINALS are CRIMINALS … they are not POLITICAL …. BUT WHEN THE STATE gives them REASON to become POLITICAL that would be a wish fulfilment for the state.
• BECAUSE without being the least perturbed, the state claims that over 240 gangs or gunmen are firing at them every year, just for criminal reasons — QUITE a lot of shootouts — without there being any political basis whatsoever fir these shootouts. QUITE extraordinary.
• SO for those who want BLOOD and IRON; and for the STATE to show who is the boss… BE VERY CAREFUL that you know what you are doing.
• POOR people in this country whether living in PNP or JLP areas … whether rural or urban… have no reason to love the state because the state DON’T love dem.
• So woe be unto the STATE when it succeeds in uniting poor people as poor people against the state.
• BUT there is another provocative factor. All the major imperialist countries have issued Travel Advisories to their citizens telling them to avoid Kingston or by implication avoid Jamaica .
• And I say that Given the way things are proceeding at the moment these advisories are highly provocative…
• A friend of mine in the States yesterday called me to say that someone had called in to a radio programme to say that a US war plane had attacked Tivoli!
• Totally ridiculous I told him. What would be the basis for that? We are not at war with the United States.
• Well, in another conversation with someone to discuss the situation here and I mentioned the rumour about this US plane attacking Tivoli … AND
• I was told by the person, someone who knows things, that a Contingency Plan had been drawn up by the US government to use a drone plane to carry out certain acts should a hair on the head of any US citizen be touched!
• Is this farfetched do you think? Maybe not…. Considering that there was another report of a US warship off the coast of Portland to pick up US citizens should the need arise.
• But it is not only the IMPERIALIST powers who are ready to push the panic buttom ….
• The Most Honourable Peter Phillips, the Gentleman who is constantly referred to as CIA by Mr. Samuda, Phillips is of course The FORMER MINISTER of National Security, who brought down BULBIE BENNET. REMEMBER he sent congratulatory message to the police for killing Bulbie even before knowing whether this was a shootout or an execution. UNDER HIS WATCH ZEKES was taken down, but NOT DUDUS, IN fact Dudus thrived under his watch. HE is also pushing the panic button.
• In response to the peaceful demonstration by the Tivoli ladies in white the HONOURABLE Gentleman released a statement saying that this demonstration raised the gravest implications for the democratic process in Jamaica /// IMAGINE THAT? That the protest was “THREATENING PARLIAMENT”… IMAGINE with hundreds of policemen on the streets keeping an eye on a peaceful protest… the HONOURABLE gentleman sees this as a threat to parliament!
• The Newspaper report goes on “Phillips said the whole episode suggested that the prospect of the capture of the state by criminal elements was not distant, but represented a clear and present danger to which the Government and the security forces should respond with the support of all well-thinking Jamaicans.”
• Is the HONOURABLE Gentleman trying to prepare the ground work for a US invasion? A US drone attack on Tivoli ?
• Or another Blood bath as happened in 2001?
• I think that all well-thinking Jamaicans should resist this approach as the solution to the problem.
• The state has been captured by the financial elite of this country and Mr. Phillips is not in the least perturbed about that. .. that is not a threat to our democracy
• The state is using economic violence against the people to pay tribute to this financial elite but I haven’t heard the Honourable Gentlemen being concerned about that.
• Clearly for his own reasons the HONOURABLE gentleman is playing a highly provocative role which goes beyond demanding that the Prime Minister tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
• This KIND of thinking is the product of seeing everything through the lens of National Security.
• Well thinking Jamaicans need to see the bankruptcy of our political and economic system… as the real problem facing us.
Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed. Isaiah 10:1
THERE are three critical, contributing factors to the budgetary crisis facing the government of Jamaica and which played out in the recent imposition and then removal of the bank withdrawal tax. They all lead to the crucial question of which class and/or sector within the class should be bearing the brunt of the debt crisis? And, if that class is not being called upon to do so: why not?
(1) Static or declining government revenues: This is primarily the result of a lack of growth in the economy. Low economic growth is a systemic problem, the result of a distorted social and economic structure inherited from our history as a plantation economy.
How it works: Former plantation economies, for the most part, have been unable to make the transition from being primary commodity producers for the world market to becoming industrialized economies. Once integrated into the world market as a primary commodity producer, the mechanism of unequal exchange (primary commodities embodying a higher value of human labour in exchange for industrial goods embodying less human labour and a higher proportion of mechanical labour) results in a transfer of wealth. This unequal exchange mechanism makes the capital accumulation required for the transition to industrialization almost impossible. Consequently, the “developmental” role assigned to the now neo-colonial State, in the face of a permanent balance of trade deficit, etc. results in a permanent and increasing fiscal deficit, which can only be bridged by borrowing or taxing.
Other factors contributing to low growth or generalized poverty are tax evasion, tax avoidance and government refusal to tax those who can most afford it. The Jamaican economy has grown only marginally over the past forty to fifty years. Wishful or ideological thinking cannot change this reality. Nor is the hogwash about creating a “business friendly environment” a basis for real growth. That is mostly ideological cover for transferring wealth from the poor to the rich, or giving businesses unbridled power to do as they please.
(2) Increasing debt stock: A permanent trade deficit (mentioned above) results in heavy borrowing in order to create infrastructural development and sometimes just to take care of ‘housekeeping’ needs. Corruption, which includes a penchant for building white elephant projects (and there are many in Jamaica), aggravates the debt crisis. It is also a form of waste.
The debt is now at levels where servicing it by taxing the poor threatens to further depress the economy and the already depressed living standards of the people. A radical approach is needed such as debt repudiation and structural economic change. For this to happen there needs to be a sharpening of the class struggle.
(3) Government, which doesn’t represent all the people as is mistakenly believed — it primarily represents the capitalist class — is empowered to choose how best to deal with this debt crisis. It can chose to stop paying the debt (which is not a likely option given its class orientation and servility towards the imperious north). The other alternative is to increase taxes on the poor and the working class which is the normal practice. The coercive powers of the state are designed for that purpose.
However, to overplay that hand runs the risk of political revolt. No one can forget the island-wide protests and gas riots of 1979 and 1999. And borrowing to pay debt becomes untenable once a certain debt, and interest rate to GDP threshold has been reached. Jamaica has reached that point, and hence ineluctable default is not impossible.
Enter the IMF: The IMF, which provides loans to ensure payment to creditors and to pre-empt the possibility of default, has imposed harsh lending conditions on the government. The debt payment burden, by all measures, has been squarely placed upon the backs of the poor and the working class. Supply side economics is the prescription for growth. For example, in the midst of declining revenues, the government, encouraged by the IMF, reduced corporate income taxes while refusing to increase taxes on financial institutions which are making obscene profits. This was exemplified by the aborted “withdrawal bank tax” which exposed the government’s unwillingness to increase taxes on the banks. Nor has reducing corporate taxes shown any sign of inducing increased investments and economic growth. [It never did work during the Reagan years for example and there are plenty studies to prove this.]
It is therefore quite reprehensible for the government and its apologists and capitalist ideologues to the argue that by staying course with this austerity policy it will somehow transform the economy and produce “growth”. How is this growth possible when the IMF itself has already made a bleak assessment of the situation facing countries like Jamaica?
The IMF has concluded that there will be little or no growth in the Latin American Caribbean (LAC) region in 2014. They are predicting “lower commodity prices” . This will be particularly injurious to Jamaica which is heavily dependent on bauxite and alumina exports. There is a glut of bauxite and alumina on the world market (controlled by a few players), and this combined with a so-called “competitiveness problems” (i.e. lack of “competitively” priced primary commodity goods that can earn foreign exchange — the unequal exchange mentioned above) will mean “tightening financial conditions” i.e. lower public spending so that the debt can be paid. Where then is the light at the end of the tunnel?
The government has committed to the IMF that it will stick to the prescribed austerity policies — for example its targeted budget surplus — in order to pay the debt. The minister of finance is quite proud of achieving a surplus in order to turn it over to creditors!
An important sidebar which highlights the government’s servility to the IMF is that it has committed to do all in its power to ensure that no steps are taken which restrict the free conversion of currency. It will “observe the standard performance criteria against imposing or intensifying exchange restriction, introducing or modifying multiple currency practices.” In other words, Audley Shaw can continue to whistle in the wind where his fixed exchange rate proposal in response to devaluation is concerned. This condition is also a broad hint that the IMF will frown on any step taken to prevent, god forbid, capital strike or capital flight should our creditors react negatively to any policy which displeases them. Prostration to the power of the market and a powerful handful of creditors (local and foreign) is the name of the game.
The politics of the bank withdrawal tax
As announced by finance minister Peter Phillips in his budget presentation over 2 billion of the 6 billion increased taxes for the 2014/15 budget was to have come from a bank withdrawal tax. Phillips subsequently tried to claim that this was not a customer tax but a bank tax but which he did not deny would be passed on to the customer. No one was fooled by his attempt at hoodwink and there was an upraor.
Some apologists claimed that this was a collectible tax and a minimal tax which is a better approach than some possibly more painful alternatives. They may be right that it is collectible. But the crux of the matter is not about how painful it is (and it is painful). The point is that the vast majority of the people view the banks as blood sucking vampires and refuse to give them any more blood. They are acutely aware that the financial institutions, generally, are the main beneficiaries of the current debt crisis. Their profits are enormous and a great portion of it represents interest earned from government debt and excessive bank charges borne by customers.
So servile is the government to the banks that once it happily withdrew the withdrawal tax in response to public pressure, no other way was found to tax bank profits. At least, one which would not involve a pass on to customers.
Conclusion: It is claimed by an Observer editorial that the government was prudent in not going ahead with the tax. This supposedly shows that it listens to the people (in concurrence with the explanation by the finance minister); and that is the way to get re-elected.
If that is so then it shows that the people need to sharpen their demands so that they get more effective results next time around rather than giving the government room to cleverly protect the banks and to seek votes.
The following must be considered:
(1) Mere withdrawal of the withdrawal tax is no solution to the debt crisis facing us. The government is unlikely to meet its revenue targets and in due course will be seeking to impose more taxes on the people, not to mention other burdens faced such as high unemployment.
(2) The debt cannot be repaid. Despite claims about having reduced the debt to GDP ratio the debt stock has increased absolutely. Instead of grinding more people into poverty, the people must demand a moratorium on debt payment to stop the oppressive austerity policies being pursued. Such a moratorium would allow for a forensic audit to determine what portion of the debt which is illegitimate or odious, and hence to be cancelled, as Ecuador has done in terms of their forensic audit, and as international law allows in terms of cancelling odious and illegitimate debt.
(5) A moratorium will also allow for negotiations with creditors in terms of how much can be repaid. Argentina negotiated a 60% discount on its debt, Jamaica can do the same and better. The Argentine economy is now one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America.
(6) Tax the rich must become the battle cry going forward. Even the rich are embarrassed at the lack of sacrifice they are called upon to make (Aubyn Hill; Karl Hendrickson; Keith Duncan; etc. have made similar points). And how about their being flabbergasted at the finance minister scandalously allowing them to import more expensive cars and pay lesser duties! But this is not surprising since the first thing the car loving finance minister did on assuming office was to use tax payers’ money to buy himself a brand new US$32,000 car!
(3) A non-negotiable NON-TRANSFERABLE bank tax. This is not a European type Robin Hood tax which appears to be passable on to customers.
Finally, it requires more than a debt moratorium plus increased taxes on the rich, etc. to solve the problems of a bankrupt economic system.
The solutions are political because, as we have seen, the decisions taken as to which class to impose the burdens on are political, class decisions. Economics is politics.
Let us therefore demand a REFERUNDUM — more important than one to decide whether to accept the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final court of appeal, or whether we should repeal the buggery law — on how to solve pressing political issues.
Let us demand a REFERENDUM on whether as a policy, we should radically increase taxes on the rich; suspend debt payment; spend more on the social needs of the people; and establish a system of direct democracy, as the solution to the economic crisis that has forced more than 1.2 million people into abject poverty.
Campaign for Social and Economic Justice.
Dear Justice Minister Mark Golding, Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, et al.
I write on behalf of the Tivoli Committee to raise certain questions in relation to the government’s planned commission of enquiry (COE) into the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre.
First of all, we strongly believe that the question of the State’s responsibility for criminal property damage (including theft), and physical injuries inflicted upon residents by the security forces should be the subject of a separate enquiry.
Term of reference (Q) which seeks to find out whether “monies, benefits or compensation were provided by the State to compensate residents of Western Kingston including Tivoli Gardens” is redundant since the present government is in possession of documents which show that the Bruce Golding government accepted State liability by paying out $90 million for funeral grants, market damage, personal property damage etc. to some residents.
We believe that in order to properly determine the remaining number of affected residents (not excluding those who were inadequately compensated), requires extensive interviews, factual verification, and the cross checking of ministry and other data. Such an exercise cannot be properly carried out by an Enquiry which has time limits and which is tasked with unearthing information, among other things, on those responsible for the massacre of so many people.
If it has been detected that there was any irregularity in payments made, the government has the administrative and other means at its disposal to get to bottom of the matter. This is an involved process. And it supports our point of view that this investigation should be done separately, and speedily, to address the suffering being experienced by affected residents.
In addition, the question of compensating those who suffered injuries from security forces sniper fire, and indiscriminate firing of JDF mortar (a criminal act) should, we believe, be addressed and be part of this separate investigation.
We trust that you will recognize the wisdom of this suggestion and make the necessary changes.
Furthermore, we believe that the terms of reference are not in accordance with holding accountable those who had effective command responsibility for the massacre.
As we have publicly stated on numerous occasions, we believe that the two main civilian commanders — former prime minister Bruce Golding and former minister of national security Dwight Nelson, and the security forces commanders Major General Stuart Saunders and police commissioner Owen Ellington — bear overwhelming responsibility and should be the main target of the enquiry. This approach is needed in keeping with established international law precepts on command responsibility.
Finally, we believe that the government should give an undertaking to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court to make a determination based on the evidence unearthed by the enquiry as to whether these individuals have criminal charges to answer under international criminal law.
It is not too late to make the necessary adjustments to the terms of reference both in relation to the matter of compensation and criminal liability.
In addition, we also urge that any commissioner appointed to replace Velma Hylton, should be someone with experience in international criminal law and human rights laws. Otherwise, even with impressive credentials, commissioners without such requisite experience will be unable to address the full scope of what transpired in 2010.
We look forward to your response and the opportunity to engage in dialogue.
NEARLY 150 years after an unsuccessful attempt to put British Governor John Eyre on trial for his command responsibility (“high crimes and misdemeanours”) for the 1865 Morant Bay massacre, there is a similar challenge today in terms of applying the same legal principles to those who bear command responsibility for the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre.
Governor Eyre declared martial law in Morant Bay and sent British troops into the area where they executed hundreds of people and committed untold acts of brutality. The Jamaica Committee (comprised of English liberals, including John Mills and Charles Darwin) made a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to have Eyre tried under existing British law.
Needless to say international law on the culpability of those who have command responsibility for military operations (including civilian commanders) has evolved and become far more explicit. German and Japanese generals were tried for war crimes after the end of the Second World War. And case law now exists in terms of experiences with Yugoslavia (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia –ICTY) and Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda — ICTR).
In 2010 Bruce Golding’s government declared a state of emergency in Tivoli Gardens west Kingston and sent in the security forces resulting in the massacre of 73 to 200 people; barbaric acts of torture and brutality were committed against the residents. Under international law these are classified as crimes against humanity.
From Morant Bay to Tivoli Gardens not much has changed in Jamaica in terms of such types of massacres being used to terrorize the poor in pursuit of political objectives.
Eyre was protected from prosecution because he was a white English man defending the interests of a racist, imperialist system, against black, colonial subjects. Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, head of the Jamaica Defence Force, Major General Stuart Saunders, and Minister of National Security, Dwight Nelson, are today being protected by the same colonial legal system that operates on behalf of a supposedly independent State in mortal combat with poor, inner city residents.
Despite decades of impunity for police extrajudicial killings, there is still a lack of appreciation among many, including human rights activists and the media, that these crimes committed by individual soldiers and police are only possible because they are sanctioned, and sometimes ordered by the command of the security forces, including the political directorate (without regard to party colour).
The convenient cover for murder and massacre in Jamaica is the “shootout” — the code word to be invoked in order to get automatic State protection.
The emergence of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) post-May 2010 (demanded by human rights bodies), supposedly to carry out independent investigations of security forces killings (though I would argue that it is also to draw attention away from police killings as a State policy), has been neither a deterrent to the killings nor a basis upon which to bring about convictions. It is fair to say that police killings are just as brazen and the rate has escalated since the creation of INDECOM.
When there is a police killing, for example, the security forces command structure, which is solidly behind the policy, is two steps ahead of INDECOM in terms of facilitating the concoction of statements within the death squads. There is also the question of whether there is collaboration, in some cases, between INDECOM investigators (some of whom are former police officers) and the police itself. There is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that this happens. This is a serious matter that requires a public enquiry.
And then there is the matter of disturbing the crime scene — which is a routine occurrence. The typical practice, after so-called shootouts, is for the police take the body to the hospital to save its life. In Brazil, where there is a similar problem with extrajudicial killings, the authorities have taken a revolutionary position, which is that the security forces must leave the body to be taken in by an ambulance. As a consequence, police killings have been reduced by 40%. INDECOM, on the other hand, is conveniently wedded to the ruse that the police take bodies to the hospital to save lives rather than to tamper with the evidence. Some would argue that the body is being taken away to ensure that it is dead on arrival. (During the Tivoli operations the opposite practice was to let bodies rot in the streets.)
Besides concocting statements, removing dead bodies, picking up spent shells, planting guns (“sweeties”), constructing shootout scenes, there are other important aspects to the impunity policy which include a reluctant and incompetent Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and a judiciary with a pro-police bias. Space does not allow for elaboration.
The greater implication for this policy of impunity, however, is that there is no limit or restraint on the massacres which can be perpetrated by the State because there is no law which holds commanders qua commanders responsible for the criminal acts of those who they command.
For example, before the blood had dried in Tivoli Gardens, the then minister of national security, Dwight Nelson, was proudly referring to the Tivoli operations as a template for other inner city communities. The PNP’s Peter Bunting, who was then opposition spokesman on national security, had no quarrel with the brutality which was perpetrated in Tivoli. Within a year, after becoming Nelson’s successor, he too would be positively pointing to the ‘Tivoli paradigm’ as a way to reduce the murder rate.
The role of civilian commanders in facilitating security forces abuse cannot therefore be ignored. And given public concern over the high murder rate, and the calls for action to be taken, it requires no great stretch of the imagination to believe that sooner or later there will be another massacre, perhaps of even greater proportion than Tivoli. Again, in order to achieve political objectives.
The Tivoli Gardens massacre also shows how the impunity process works in one very important area. For reasons that seem obvious, the police took the decision not to carry out any investigation of what happened. Without such investigation the DPP can prosecute no one. Police investigation is the first requirement of Jamaican judicial due process. In other words, if the police is not interested in investigating, it is equivalent to saying that the massacre did not happen. No one has asked the police commissioner to explain this decision. This was tantamount to giving himself a free pass despite the stench of blood hanging over his head. This is a significant deficiency in the Jamaican politico-judicial system.
Not even the prime minister could be relied upon as a counter weight to the police commissioner because he refused to challenge the police commissioner’s handling of the operation. No doubt because he also had questions to answer himself. Instead he enabled the commissioner’s treacherous act by calling upon the Public Defender to investigate, knowing full well that the Public Defender was not set up or equipped to carry out criminal investigations of this magnitude. The Public Defender would in turn demonstrate his compliance and lack of independence by recommending a Commission of Enquiry (COE).
Nearly four years after, this COE has not taken place, even if one is imminent. Space does not allow for analysis of the timidity shown by the Public Defender in not carrying out an investigation, which he had the power to do, into the role of the prime minister, the minister of national security and heads of the security forces in the massacre. This he cowardly left for others to do. This speaks volumes to the point we make in conclusion that a just resolution of this matter properly resides in an outside investigation.
The same scenario was played out in 2001 when the police massacred over 27 people in the same Tivoli Gardens area. The police carried out no investigation and while there was a COE, it predictably resulted in no criminal charges being levelled against anyone.
The convening of a COE, as is now being planned, is merely designed to ‘go through the motions’. (There is no point in getting into the current distraction created by one appointed commissioner who revealed her pro-police bias in the 2001 enquiry. This is normal bias where the police is concerned.) The major point is that COEs can only make administrative “recommendations” which the government is not legally obliged to accept.
The COE would be unable to recommend criminal charges for any individual soldier or policeman, even if they were so inclined, since the evidentiary challenge is next to impossible. That is why the victorious “Allies” went after German and Japanese military commanders after the war, not individual soldiers.
The evidence is far more compelling where the Tivoli commanders are concerned and had the terms of reference been framed to specifically enquire into their command responsibility it would be far more likely to hold them accountable.
But even such a recommendation would have no legal weight under Jamaican laws, because as was said above, Jamaican laws have not been updated in keeping with the evolution of international legal concept on the role commanders in the commission of crimes against humanity. This would require the specific involvement of the International Criminal Court as the Tivoli Committee has recommended.
Jamaica and the ICC
In 2001 Jamaica signed but did not ratify the Rome Statute of the International Court. It is only under international law that Jamaican commanders can be prosecuted for crimes against humanity and thus far, for obvious reasons, this Statute has never been ratified into Jamaican law. But, by having signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, the government can under Article 12(3) give the ICC jurisdiction over the Tivoli matter. The government has chosen, however, to turn a deaf ear to this demand as reflected in its lack of response to a petition signed by two thousand Tivoli west Kingston residents demanding ICC involvement. The media and other public commentators have been silent on this point as well.
The present minister of justice, Mark Golding, has admitted that Cabinet has given approval for laws to be drafted so that the Statute can be ratified, but is unable or unwilling to give any time line as to when this will happen. Nor has he sought to publicize this important decision in order to promote public discussion.
Let us therefore outline the command responsibility charges against the commanders.
Bruce Golding as prime minister, minister of defence, head of the Defence Board, and member of parliament for Tivoli/west Kingston, would have been instrumental in having his Cabinet approve the State of Emergency declared in west Kingston in May 2010. He would have consulted with the police commissioner, the head of the Jamaica Defence Force and certainly the minister of national security, who holds portfolio responsibility for the police force. Golding admits that he was advised by the security forces of the need to declare a state of emergency to deal with the alleged threat to the state.
Golding would have been aware or should have been aware of the military plans. He has publicly admitted that he requested a surveillance plane from the US in order to get an understanding of what was happening on the ground in Tivoli Gardens. He therefore would have been in a position to assess what was an appropriate response to the “threat”. Given the history of security forces abuse in Tivoli Gardens, he had a duty to effectively ensure that this was not another excuse for brutality. He admits that he received daily reports from the heads of the security forces. He saw no need to raise any questions with them, despite media reports, and residents in Tivoli Gardens claiming to have called him by phone asking him to put a stop to the atrocities.
There is a report that he received an emotional appeal from a Cabinet member as to the atrocities being committed once they started. Golding had a legal obligation to stop the massacre. The evidence suggests that he did nothing. The JDF through Colonel Rocky Meade, said no request for any change of plans was received from Golding and they would have complied had any such request been received. Golding‘s most significant statement to the residents of Tivoli Gardens since the massacre, was that ‘what happened could not have been avoided!”
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington had effective control over the police force. He was involved in the planning of the operation, certainly from the police side. He admitted on a television interview that the planning was in progress for months. Ellington was aware that citizens distrusted the police based on previous acts of brutality; that barricades were being constructed precisely because of this distrust and because there was an expected “incursion.” Several statements were issued by Ellington’s office to the effect that the people’s human rights would be respected. This turned out not to be the case. Ellington has recently admitted that certain “regrettable” things happened even though within hours of the operation he congratulated the police on a professional job, well done. The police force has neither investigated nor does it appear that Ellington has done his own internal investigation as demanded by INDECOM. Ellington cannot evade responsibility for the conduct of the police. The ICC must be allowed to decide his fate.
Major General Stuart Saunders
As is the case with Golding and Ellington, Saunders participated in the planning of the operation. Soldiers under his command are alleged to have carried out extrajudicial killings; destruction of property; theft; torture. Mortar was fired in a residential area destroying buildings, killing and maiming civilians. The use of mortar against civilians is a war crime. The JDF refused to cooperate with the Public Defender in his investigation. There is no indication that the JDF has disciplined any of its soldiers. The ICC must be allowed to decide his fate as well.
Dwight Nelson was a member of the Defence Board. He was minister in charge of the police force. He was responsible for policy and therefore a civilian commander. He had a duty to be briefed on all the plans for the attack. He had an equal duty to ensure that the security forces did only what was legally required. He had a duty to be apprised of what was happening on the ground, as the prime minister was. He had a duty to ensure that there was no mass killings or abuse of human rights. On the face of the evidence Dwight Nelson not only failed to carry out his duties and by claiming that Tivoli was a template for other inner cities, and other such inflammatory statements, shows that he gave unwavering and unquestioning support to the security forces. He should be investigated by the ICC along with the others mentioned above.
The government in collusion with the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party is set to hold a COE which promises to be an administrative whitewash which cannot result in any criminal prosecution. Apart from the Tivoli Committee there is no section of civil society which is demanding the involvement of the ICC — not even Jamaicans For Justice or Amnesty International. This is a serious indictment of the role being played by these supposed human rights organizations in terms of facilitating the impunity process.
The Tivoli Committee therefore invites all who are swayed by the arguments presented in this analysis to join us in continuing to expose the government’s and the opposition’s whitewash plans; to oppose impunity for the criminal massacre of so many innocent people.
A just resolution of the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre cannot be entrusted to a dysfunctional justice system and a brutal Jamaican state.
Join us therefore in demanding that the Portia Simpson Miller government agree to give jurisdiction over the investigation of the massacre to the ICC, and if it refuses, to stand condemned for facilitating the most eggregious act of state terrorism since independence.
Please contact us to pledge your support.
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington is on record as welcoming an investigation by INDECOM into allegations by a present and former police officer that there are death squads within the police force.
INDECOM has yet to publicly respond to the call from Jamaican citizens for there to be such an investigation. This investigation is long overdue and the fact that it has not happened is scandalous in a country where citizens are told that they are governed by the rule of law.
INDECOM as we all know was set up in response to decades of allegations of police extrajudicial killings by Jamaican citizens, Jamaican human rights organizations, foreign human rights organizations, and foreign governments, primarily the United States and the UK, including the main United Nations human rights body, and in this hemisphere, the IACHR.
The fact though is that INDECOM has one major shortcoming which is that it does not have the power to prosecute and so it must contend with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions which historically has been reluctant to prosecute police officers, or if it prosecutes, to prosecute in a vigorous way.
INDECOM has come under tremendous pressure from all ranks of the police force, including the police commissioner, and it would be naive to believe that they have not been intimidated. It is no secret that the current minister of national security would like to see INDECOM’s powers curbed, not enhanced because of his pro-police stance.
The ball is therefore in INDECOM’s court. The INDECOM Act gives Commissioner Terrence Williams the power to hold any public enquiry which he sees fit. Commissioner Williams cannot therefore resile from going forward with what is manifestly and historically required of him.
Indeed, it would show weakness and cowardice were this to be a behind the scenes enquiry, limited to death squads. There is need for a broad public enquiry into the practice, nay the policy as it really is, of police extrajudicial killings. To enquire into the policy would demonstrate to the public how all sections of the State collude, beginning with the prime minister, the minister of national security, and the judiciary to facilitate this practice and to provide impunity.
It would represent a truly democratic way of ending a bad policy and moving forward with a new one that is popular and supported by all citizens.
Nothing less is required because as it stands a State which does not respect the constitutionally guaranteed right to life of its citizens is illegitimate. Almost four years after the horrendous Tivoli Gardens massacre the State has given no indication that it is ready to resolve this matter. And as already been demanded by the Tivoli Committee, unless the International Criminal Court is involved, any other type of enquiry can only result at best with an administrative rap on the knuckles — not with the perpetrators and the commanders of the massacre being held legally accountable.
The country is therefore at a cross roads where this issue is concerned. If INDECOM does not act decisively and with courage it would have confirmed both negatively (for those who sense its weaknesses and rationale of existence) and positively (for those who want it to be that way) that it is a tool of the State doing its instinctive best to hold intact the circle of impunity for the State policy of extrajudicial killings.
If that is the case then INDECOM has proven itself to be irrelevant as far as citizens being able to protect themselves from criminal acts by the State.
Movement to end Jamaica police extrjudicial kilings