Without presenting a shred of evidence, National Security Minister Stuart Young wants the population to accept that the protests erupting in dispossessed communities across the country are the actions of criminals paid to do the bidding of unidentified persons.
Going one step further but also without evidence, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith condemned the protests as “a well-orchestrated plot by certain gang leaders” planning “mayhem, fear and destruction…”
Unless they can present evidence to the contrary, we suggest that both officials consider the obvious fact that the horror of Saturday’s police killings captured on video is the match that lit the fuse of anger now running like wildfire through communities deprived of representation and denied justice for generations.
Evoking the spectre of unnamed plotters does nothing to absolve either the Government or the Police Service of their responsibility for responding to the communities’ cries. Whether or not there are forces orchestrating the protests is irrelevant. The more important issue is the validity of the protests triggered by the police killing of Noel Diamond, Joel Jacobs and Israel Clinton of Morvant.
Yesterday’s killing of Ornella Greaves, a 30-year-old pregnant resident of Beetham Gardens, allegedly by a police bullet, should be the signal for an urgent de-escalation by the police. Responding to community hurt and anger with bullets and force will only exacerbate a situation that demands dialogue and justice.
We again call for the immediate suspension of all officers involved in Saturday’s shootings and for the Judicial and Legal Service Commission to appoint a special coroner to conduct an inquest within an urgent and defined time-frame. We make this call in the interest of public trust and transparency. We note the assurances from both Minister Young and Commissioner Griffith that the killings will be investigated by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and the Police Service. However, it is public knowledge that the PCA is over-burdened and understaffed and has not delivered findings on any of its probes into police killings for years. Further, the TTPS must accept the lack of confidence by the public, generally, and the community, specifically, in its ability to conduct independent investigations into alleged misdeeds by police officers, a current example being its handling of the investigation into ACP Irwin Hackshaw.
In the prevailing environment of distrust, we are deeply concerned that the authorities’ hardline approach will exacerbate current social tensions and inflame the situation. This is not a time for strong-arm police tactics but for dialogue under conditions of trust. Confrontation has already resulted in the killing of an innocent woman. We urge the authorities to pull back now and resist the temptation to take the country down a road that could end in social conflagration.
It speaks volumes about the lack of representation experienced by these communities when not a single Member of Parliament representing them has dared to show their face to protesting constituents. Also conspicuously absent on the scene from the action has been Commissioner Griffith, a man not usually shy to show up. Instead of sending out police squadrons, these are the national leaders who should be reaching out to the communities to understand and assuage their anger.