Archive for April, 2012


HERE IS THE CONTINUATION OF THE INTERVIEW WITH MATTATHIAS SCHWARTZ

Was it easy to get information about the existence of the US military plane from the American govt.? What was the actual process?

I filed requests with several agencies in the U.S. government under the Freedom of Information Act. Confirmation of the plane came through the Department of Homeland Security. A copy of what they sent me can be read on my website here:

http://www.mattathiasschwartz.com/download-the-dhs-tivoli-gardens-foia-document-here/

So at no time was there hesitance on the part of the US govt to provide the information?

There was a great deal of hesitance. Many people and institutions declined to answer questions that I posed to them.

 

Is there any way to get the actual footage recorded by the plane into the public domain? Are you interested in pursuing the story further?

Yes and yes. I want to make the footage public and I am pursuing this goal through multiple channels. The footage is an invaluable piece of evidence in determining what took place in May 2010 and who exactly was responsible for so many civilian deaths.

Do you think that there may have been more US involvement than that which has been formally recognized?

I wouldn’t want to speculate—what I try to do is amass as much evidence as possible and then talk about what the evidence shows. Right now there is no evidence that has been made public suggesting that the U.S. had “boots on the ground” during the Tivoli operation. Most of what we do know is in three paragraphs from my story, below. I should also say, however, that the U.S. and Jamaican governments both have a great deal of nonpublic material and evidence about the operation, and that I am a long ways from being convinced that the U.S. did not have a more direct involvement in the operation than has been disclosed up to now.

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The State Department and the D.E.A. have also officially acknowledged that the plane assisted the Jamaican government during the Tivoli operation. The P-3 Orion, they said, in a statement given to me this fall, passed information “to U.S. law-enforcement officers stationed at the Embassy, who provided that information to Jamaican authorities.” The statement said that U.S. law-enforcement officers had not made “operational decisions” during the incursion, and emphasized Jamaican responsibility. “The video material was not viewed in the Embassy,” a State Department spokesperson said. “It was viewed at a tactical-operations center, and I don’t have the location of that.” When asked whether there were U.S. officials at the tactical-operations center, the spokesperson said, “I don’t know. I can’t clarify that for you.” A D.E.A. spokesperson said, “We were absolutely not involved on the ground in any of the operations.”

But parts of the D.H.S. report appear to contradict that assertion. The plane was assigned “at the request of and in support of the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.) Kingston Country Office,” the report reads. “Surveillance support is needed to increase officer safety.” Later, spokespeople from the State Department and the D.H.S. said that this referred solely to Jamaican officers. Major General Stewart Saunders, who led the Jamaican Army during the attack on Tivoli, retired shortly afterward, and declined repeated requests for comment, as did Prime Minister Golding. Numerous other officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, the D.E.A., the Justice Department, and the State Department declined to comment, saying that they had to wait until Witter’s report was completed or until Coke was sentenced.

It is clear that the U.S. played a major role in tracking Coke before the operation. “We were constantly involved in the investigation,” Bill Sorukas, the chief of the International Investigations Branch of the U.S. Marshals Service, said. “We provided information and intelligence on Coke and associates he was with.” He noted that the U.S. collaborates closely with the Jamaica Fugitive Apprehension Team, a special unit of the police, and that the “investigation was worked jointly” by the D.E.A. and the police. A senior Jamaican parliamentarian added that the U.S. government had provided satellite images of Tivoli in response to a 2008 request from Jamaican law-enforcement officials who said they needed help tracking Coke.

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What did you think when the former Minister of Security Dwight Nelson denied the existence and involvement of the US military aircraft?

 I thought that he was being less than honest with the Jamaican people.

The coincidence of the article being published within 4 weeks of Jamaica’s general election led some to believe that the timing was deliberate. Conspiracy theorists here have said that the US govt. wanted to punish the JLP and ensure their loss in the election. How do you respond to this?

It is a coincidence. The U.S. government has no control over the New Yorker’s publication schedule. That is not how the media works, at least not in the U.S.

The issue of credibility on the whole became a major reason for the JLP’s loss. The denial of the US plane which we all saw was one of several nails in their coffin. How do you feel being the person who basically put a spotlight on this particular lie?

It is indeed interesting that the U.S. can fly a plane over Jamaica, a plane that millions of people saw, a plane that was photographed by the chief photographer at the Gleaner, and that the Jamaican government can continue deny its existence months later.

Has there ever been to your knowledge the equivalent incident in your country’s entire history? If not, what comes closest?

History never repeats itself exactly but here are some (very) rough and debatable analogs that come to mind: The attack on David Koresh’s compound in Waco, Texas, 1993. The bombing of the MOVE compound in Philadelphia, 1985. The 1967 Detroit riot and 1965 Watts riots.

What would you like to see happen now? What is in your 1st world media eyes appropriate closure? With West Kingston, the state, the victims, the criminals, law enforcement, Jamaican society?

We need to know what happened. All evidence must be released. This includes videos, ballistics, autopsies, and records kept by the U.S. government, the Jamaican government, and the security forces. If it appears that the law was broken during the attack on Tivoli Gardens, and, based on the evidence in my story, I am convinced that it was, the guilty must be brought to justice.

I did this piece to hopefully remind people in Jamaica that two years after the Tivoli Incursion there has been no release of any of the information related to any of the questionable killings which took place. None. 

I ask one thing. Please email or call any of the contacts listed below and ask them to pressure the Jamaican government to seek answers. Included is the phone number for the Office of the Public Defender in Jamaica. His name is Earl Witter. He is the person who has been given the mandate to investigate the questionable killings. For the international contacts you can refer them to the article in the New Yorker and this blog post.

Jamaicans For Justice—- http://www.jamaicansforjustice.org/

Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org/en/contact

Office of Public Defender 876-922-7089

National Integrity Action Ltd —–http://niajamaica.org/contact-us/

Human Rights Watch attn José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director http://www.hrw.org/en/contact-us

European Union in Jamaica http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/jamaica/about_us/contacts/index_en.htm

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The events leading up and subsequent to the May 24, 2010 Tivoli incursion taught me many things about Jamaicans and Jamaica. Some of them were sad confirmations of things that I had long suspected but would never have dared to verbalize in good company.

One of the things I confirmed was that a significant number of our populace have goals that extend only to eating their next meal. Regardless of the extent of systematic  abuse meted out to them or their loved ones, the lure of an immediate meal, hustle or even a promise of  “soon come” is often enough to keep them loyal and hoping.

I also confirmed that the social, political and class divides that Edward Seaga and many others spoke of over four decades ago are as pronounced and perhaps even more rigid than they have ever been, regardless of the superficial proclamations of “Out of Many One People” which has become a meaningless mantra.

I saw how misguided political agendas by both parties caused potentially great Jamaican statesmen to become liars, in some cases to become spies and informers for imperialist powers and others  complicit in ignoring the murder of innocent civilians. All in the name of politriks.

But honestly speaking, the most important thing I learnt was the extent to which the value of a Jamaican life is determined by how far above or below HWT one resides.

Just over 70 persons were officially acknowledged to have been killed in West Kingston during the operations to capture Christopher Coke by the security forces. I have heard from numerous sources, some of whom I have very strong belief in their integrity, that the actual dead may have numbered closer to 120. And to this day, almost 2 years later, not one iota of justice, recompense, reconciliation and even respect has been shown to the bereaved.

The understanding or acceptance by Jamaican society is that all these casualties were simply combatants hell-bent on the protection of their don and got their just deserves.

That is not the truth.

I am not going to fabricate fairy tales that every person killed was a churchgoing choirboy who was brutally murdered by evil security forces. The law enforcement officials came under severe fire and whatever means that they deemed appropriate to save their own lives and accomplish their mission, I as a law-abiding well-meaning Jamaican was in complete support.

The real problem is that they did not stop there. The truth is that many innocents were executed. Handcart men, vendors, mechanics, just regular working men who looked like they could be in some way connected to the Presidential System were put onto the ground and shot in their heads. Jamaican men were dragged from their homes and killed. Without charge, trial or jury…..they were shot like dogs.

Some were dumped in shallow graves in May Pen Cemetery and there are people claiming that others were burnt in furnaces over the old Public Works grounds.

The real dilemma is that no one cares. The mistake of the Jamaican populace is their largely held belief that everyone who lives in such an area, who did not leave, was a supporter of Coke and therefore deserving of death.  The real tragedy is the popular sentiment that ghetto Jamaican lives are cheap and plentiful.  Their deaths really amount to nothing but a relief to society, as we, the legitimate and proper bearers of the title “Jamaican citizen”, have merely gotten rid of a current or a potential criminal.

So when the TVJ news poll during the week of May 24 asked viewers “Should Tivoli residents be allowed to bury their dead?” it all became perfectly clear to me. No one can or will ever have to give me permission to bury my dog. I live uptown, I have my tings, mi have mi rights or so I would like to believe like Keith Clarke probably did.

But those 2 legged dogs in Tivoli need to get approval from us before they are allowed to bury the other two-legged dogs that we have killed. Michael Sharpe read that poll on TVJ and was seeking the public’s answers with a perfectly straight face. What we as a society fail to recognize is that the same knife that stick sheep will stick goat. When any human life within a country is undervalued, it undervalues all lives in that country. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. When anyone of us can be killed by the state without accountability, then all bets are off.  Regardless of what side of Half Way Tree one resides.

So herein lies the purpose of this blog post—- There was one article in the media which stood out and somewhat humanized the overall situation and the loss of life which took place in the Tivoli incursion.

It was not done by our local media. It was a piece in The New Yorker Magazine by a young white non-Jamaican male by the name of Mattathias Schwartz. He did the story that every Jamaican journalist should have been interested in doing. He did the piece that spoke to many of the issues that us as a society should have been concerned about subsequent to the incursion. Sadly we were too busy asking whether or not the dogs should have been allowed to bury their dead.

Here is a two part interview that I did with Matt. I simply wanted to find out a bit more about the opinions of the outsider who probably has done the single definitive piece on the Tivoli Incursion of 2010.


Had you ever been to Jamaica before? If so, what were your impressions?

I traveled to Jamaica as a tourist. Then I met someone in Kingston who told me about aspects of the Tivoli/Coke story that hadn’t made it into U.S. media, and I got started reporting. To some extent, Jamaica reminds me of Philadelphia—corrupt politics, insufficient housing, lots of murder, lots of exploitation by an entrenched power elite. Jamaica is what you would get if you put Philadelphia on an island in the Caribbean and left it alone for twenty or thirty years.

 How long were you here while doing the Tivoli story?

Eleven weeks, spread out over three trips.

What were your impressions of Tivoli as a community? What were some of the more memorable moments and characters?

 There are lots of “eyes on the street” to borrow Jane Jacobs’s term for informal public surveillance. If you come in from outside of the community, you need to be prepared to explain yourself and your reasons for being there to residents. “Unity” is a word that you hear a lot when Tivoli talks about itself, and it is true that the community has a great deal of spirit and unity and identity as a neighborhood. Tivoli is very closely knit.

What was your impression of Dudus’ role in the community?

It is hard for me to say with certainty. I wasn’t actually present in the community during the time that he was in charge so what I know comes from documentary sources and interviews with people who were there—police and residents. Among residents, there is a lot of love for Dudus and a lot of fear as well and sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between the two.

You must have heard an abundance of stories in your research that you eventually culled down for piece, did you get the impression people in West Kingston lied a lot?

Jamaica is a small country—about 2.7 million people the Internet tells me. So when you are looking into an event with as much impact as the Coke extradition and the Tivoli Gardens incursion, it is hard to find someone in Jamaica—let alone West Kingston—who doesn’t have a direct connection to the event. And when you or someone close to you is involved in an event, that makes it harder to give an honest, complete account when some reporter who just met starts asking you questions.

What was the most surprising/shocking discovery you made during your research?

I would meet an individual who claimed that they had never had any involvement or relationship with Dudus or his father. Then I would later learn, from another source, that they had a rather close relationship with one or the other. Or I would meet an individual who would claim that they had a relationship in the distant past that was now over. Then I would turn up a piece of evidence that the relationship was far more current than they had let on.

The first part of my answer to this question does not apply to the dead of May 2010, however. I remain convinced that Radcliffe Freeman, Andre Smith, and dozens of others who died during the incursion were innocent noncombatants killed in cold blood by the Jamaican security forces during the incursion. I have published a great deal of evidence to this effect, evidence that was vetted with great care by myself and the magazine’s factcheckers. I challenge anyone in the Jamaican government or elsewhere to produce evidence to the contrary.

Were you surprised that no Jamaican media had really done a comprehensive piece on the Tivoli Incursion?

No, I was not surprised.

Why weren’t you surprised?

Well, let me modify that slightly. Some of the Gleaner’s coverage—bothprint and video—immediately after the assault on Tivoli was very good.And the Observer has at least two columnists who have worked hard tokeep questions surrounding the civilian casualties in the publicconversation. When you ask why there was no comprehensiveinvestigative piece in the Jamaican media, and why I was notsurprised, it’s difficult for me to say exactly. I do think that thereany many excellent and honest journalists in Jamaica, and that they covered this story as well as they could, given the resources that they had.

Have you been approached by any human rights organizations, charities, judicial organizations about your piece?

I came into contact with some organizations like these, such asAmnesty International and Jamaicans for Justice, during the reporting process.

Did you actually speak to any Jamaican politicians?

I assume you mean during the process of reporting the story … if so,the answer is yes, I spoke with numerous Jamaican MPs as well as other politicians and government officials.

What were the US impressions to your article? What did your editor think? Was it a popular story?

I wish that there had been more outrage in the U.S. regarding the story, particularly given the fact that a U.S. citizen was killed and the U.S. government assisted with the operation. The U.S. public certainly wouldn’t stand for something like this occurring in a U.S. city. I am frankly surprised how easily the Jamaican public appears to have written off the killing of dozens of Jamaican citizens by their own security forces.

Here is part 2 of the interview


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