“I’m concerned at the failure, up to now, to establish that the majority of these persons are persons who were engaging the police in gunfire,” Golding testified on questioning from attorney Deborah Martin who is representing the police at the Tivoli Enquiry at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
“I’m concerned as well that in the report of the public defender… he said that in the case of at least 46 of the civilian killings that took place there are important questions that need to be investigated because they [the killings] seem questionable,” Golding added during his sometimes testy exchange with Martin.
But Martin shot back, saying that Golding was also aware that the public defender’s report said that no particular member of the police force could be shown to have committed an extrajudicial killing during the operation in which 72 civilians and a member of the Jamaica Defence Force were killed and more than a dozen soldiers injured.
“But neither can it be said that these people died of cardiac arrest,” said Golding, who was member of parliament of the West Kingston constituency in which Tivoli Gardens sits.
“They died because of violence – violence unleashed that day because of the conduct of criminals within the community,” Martin quipped.
But Golding retorted that it is yet to be established from where that violence emanated. However, Martin asked if he was saying that criminals in Tivoli Gardens had nothing to do with the violence.
At that point, Queen’s Counsel Ransford Braham, who is representing Golding, objected, soliciting the intervention of Commission Chairman Sir David Simmonds.
Martin, in response to the objection, said she was concerned that Golding’s statement about the 46 questionable killings was adverse to the police and gave the impression that the police were responsible for those deaths.
During an earlier exchange between Martin and Golding, the former prime minister said he couldn’t say that people in Tivoli Gardens were held hostage by criminals at the time.
Asked if he was aware that the then Security Minister Dwight Nelson and councillor for Tivoli Gardens Division Desmond McKenzie had told a media outlet that law-abiding citizens were being held hostage by criminals, Golding said he never “saw or heard” the broadcast.
At one point, Martin asked Golding if he was concerned that gunmen in Tivoli Gardens were putting the safety of law-abiding residents at risk, but Golding responded that he was concerned about the risk to which the residents would be exposed once the operation to apprehend Coke started.
After his public statement of May 23, 2010 concerning the matter was put to him, Golding finally said that gunmen had put the safety of residents of Tivoli Gardens at risk.
Golding said also that gunmen were shooting at the police, without provocation, on May 23, 2010.
Martin concluded her examination of Golding, clearing the way for Lieutenant Colonel Linton Gordon, representing the army, to question the former prime minister.
Responding to questions from Gordon, Golding said he would not argue with him on the question of whether he (Golding) would consider Coke a “dangerous wrongdoer” up to the time he (Golding) stopped talking to him in January 2008.
He also agreed that Coke was feared within Tivoli Gardens and that “many citizens” would have feared making a report against him. Golding was responding to a question from Gordon about whether Tivoli Gardens residents had reported to him that gunmen had been shooting at the police.
At another point, he said he heard of “anecdotal reports” of a “justice system within Tivoli” separate and apart from the island’s formal justice system.
The enquiry is scheduled to continue today with Golding to undergo further questioning by Gordon.