Holness Apologises for West Kingston Incursion

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Government Approves Multi-million Dollar Compensation Package For Affected Residents

KINGSTON, JAMAICA — The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government last week apologized to the people of West Kingston who were affected by the security forces operation that left over 70 people dead, in their bid to apprehend the country’s then most wanted criminal Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, in May 2010.

The apology was made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in the House of Representatives.
He told the House he was acting on the recommendation of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry that probed the matter and which made several recommendations including compensation for persons affected by the incursion by the security forces. A Jamaica Defence Force soldier was among those killed during the three-day operation that began on May 23, 2010.

“I believe that the most immediate and appropriate response of the Government is to begin the process (of healing) by apologising to those who were affected,” Holness said. He said the lesson learnt was a “very expensive lesson.”

He said an apology is what makes us a civilized society.

Following its apology, the government this week said it has approved J$200 million to compensate people who were affected by the operations of the security forces in West Kingston in May 2010.

During the 2010 security operations to capture the fugitive, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who was wanted by United States law enforcement authorities on drugs related charges, 73 civilians and a soldier were killed while other persons were detained and properties damaged and destroyed.

A Commission of Inquiry into that operation recommended financial compensation for persons victimised by the State and that the Government last week issued a formal apology for the use of excessive force by the security forces.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, who announced the monetary compensation, said that the implementation of the recommendations of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry is at varying stages of completion, with some fully completed and others at an advanced stage of completion.

“A few of the recommendations will require significant work and resources, but the government is not short on will to honour its commitment to implement all of the recommendations,” he said.

Chuck said in keeping with the Commission’s recommendations as part of the healing process, the Andrew Holness government has continued its counselling programme for residents, which commenced in the immediate aftermath of the event.

Over the last five years, the Victim Services Division of the Justice Ministry counselled 3,125 persons – both new and repeat clients; and a satellite counselling facility, the West Kingston Counselling Centre, was established.

Chuck noted that residents of West Kingston were also assisted by the Guidance Counselling Unit of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information; the Child Development Agency (CDA); Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP); volunteers of the associations of psychologists and psychiatrists, and the University of the West Indies.
“The Ministry has also put in place additional resources to assist the affected communities in the area of restorative justice. Restorative Justice Centres were established in Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town. Since then, 24 conferences involving 183 individuals – both victims and offenders – have been held at the two centres,” he said.

In his apology last week, Prime Minister Holness said that “the loss of life was never the option that the State wanted to take.

“The fact that lives were lost, therefore, is regrettable, is something that we are sorry for, and to start that process of healing, I believe there is grounds, and room for us to make a sincere apology,” Holness said. – CMC

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