Queen’s Counsel Lord Anthony Gifford yesterday charged that the “tragedy of Tivoli” was caused by the “unnecessary delay” of the Bruce Golding Administration in giving the authority to commence extradition proceedings against Jamaica Labour Party supporter and former West Kingston don Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.
Gifford, who is representing the Office of the Public Defender at the Tivoli Enquiry, made the statement while questioning former Justice Minister and Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne on the matter of the delay in her signing the authority to proceed with extradition proceedings against Coke.
“And therefore,” Gifford said, “the tragedy of Tivoli was in part caused by the unnecessary delay — unnecessary because the matter should have been sent to the Resident Magistrate’s Court for determination.”
Seventy-six people, including a soldier, died in the police/military operation to execute a warrant of arrest on Coke and restore law and order to Tivoli Gardens and its environs after gunmen barricaded the community and launched unprovoked attacks on the police.
Gifford had tried showing, through a series of questions and with the reading of an excerpt from Lightbourne’s own response to a question in the Manatt Enquiry in 2011, that there was no reason for the Government’s challenge of the request from the United States, in August 2009, for Coke’s extradition.
The Golding Administration had challenged the request in the local courts, calling it unconstitutional because it contained illegally obtained wiretap of Coke’s telephone conversations.
“Did you not know, Miss Lightbourne, that quite apart from the question of the intercepted information and its legality there was first-hand admissible, probative evidence on the part of the two anonymous witnesses describing Mr Coke’s role in the conspiracy?” Gifford asked.
“No, but they were repeating. The tapes were played to them and they were reconfirming what was on the tapes,” Lightbourne said. “That is why the Americans were asked to remove the wiretap evidence, send other evidence and we would consider it… they refused.”
“So I’m suggesting to you in my last question that on the basis of the evidence of the co-operating witnesses, there was a case to answer which should have been sent to the magistrate’s court all along?” Gifford asked.
“No,” Lightbourne insisted, “the evidence that corroborated what the witnesses had said was the wiretap.”
“Did you not in fact say in your statement to the Manatt commission, ‘I took into account that there was some evidence against the subject of the request, even if the material gained by the intercept was excluded’?” Gifford asked.
“And I said it was not sufficient. There was some evidence but it was not sufficient,” Lightbourne said.
Gifford showed Lightbourne her evidence from the Manatt Enquiry to show that she had made no mention of the evidence against Coke being insufficient. He then made the “Tivoli tragedy” remark.
Meanwhile, under questioning from attorney Deborah Martin, who represents the Jamaica Constabulary Force at the enquiry, Lightbourne said that she does not read newspapers or watch television news.
“I do not read the newspapers or watch TV news as they are usually very disturbing,” she said.
“That is even more disturbing,” Martin retorted.
Martin had been questioning Lightbourne on whether she was aware of public sentiments regarding the Coke extradition debacle, or events leading up to the joint police/military operations in Tivoli Gardens in May 2010.
Still, Lightbourne testified that the Cabinet at the time had prepared a proclamation for a state of emergency from as far as May 13, days ahead of the announcement of the state of emergency on May 18, 2010.
Former Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington will take the witness stand when the enquiry continues tomorrow.