But Golding, who was responding to questions from two attorneys at the Tivoli Enquiry at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, said that he accepts responsibility as the then head of the Government.
Carol DaCosta, who represents the Tivoli Committee, posed the first questions to Golding about the issue.
“Mr Golding,” DaCosta said, “as the head of the Government, the minister of defence, the chairman of the National Security Council, do you recognise that it was your responsibility — the buck stops with you [regarding] what happened to the people in May 2010?”
“Ultimately, as prime minister I have to accept responsibility for what transpired that involved the institutions and the agencies of the State,” Golding responded. “That doesn’t mean that I take personal responsibility.”
He added: “I want to stress again…there is no provision in the Constabulary Force Act for the prime minister to give direction to the police force in terms of any operational activity. That was removed in 1992, I believe.”
After DaCosta concluded her examination Golding was then tackled on the issue by Lord Anthony Gifford, who represents the Office of the Public Defender in the proceedings.
“May I ask you,” he said, “do you accept any personal responsibility for causing or contributing to the chain of events which ended in the tragedy?” Gifford asked.
“No, Sir. As I indicated before, I accept responsibility because I was head of the Government; personal responsibility? No,” he said.
Questioned further by Gifford, Golding said he regretted “the fact that so many lives had been lost” during the operation.
“So many civilian residents, constituents of mine, lost their lives,” Golding said, while adding that he also regretted the fact that “members of the security forces were injured and at least three of them lost their lives”.
But Gifford’s attempt to solicit an apology from Golding to those affected by the operation was met with an objection from Queen’s Counsel Ransford Braham, who is representing Golding.
Earlier in the day, the former prime minister testified during examination from DaCosta that he could not hold the view that the security forces went into Tivoli Gardens on a “murderous spree”.
At the same time, he said that he can’t hold the view that the 73 civilians killed had died while attacking members of the security forces. Golding said a determination needed to be made on just how many civilians were killed in battle with the security forces and how many died in a way that “can’t be justified”.
He said it would “leave an emptiness” that he would be “concerned about” if the commission concludes without addressing this question.
Prior to this, Golding said during examination by INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams, he got the impression that there was a weakness in the command and supervision of the ground force during the Tivoli Gardens operation.
The day started with Golding’s continued examination by Lieutenant Colonel Linton Gordon, who is representing the Jamaica Defence Force. Golding testified that he wasn’t afraid of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.
He was also asked by Gordon if he was under a code of silence that prevented him from speaking “freely”.
“No, Sir, I was just giving context,” Golding said.
Gordon asked Golding about a code of silence because of his long-winded response to a question about garrison politics and his reference to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s South West St Andrew constituency. Golding said, too, that Coke was “very dominant in the west Kingston constituency when he (Golding) became member of parliament there.
On the issue of garrisons Golding agreed that garrison politics was something that had to be dealt with.