KINGSTON, Jamaica [PeterPaul.ca] — Security forces are on the hunt for Christopher “Dudus” Coke at his compound in Tivoli Gardens in the Jamaican parish of West Kingston following an announcement by the government of their intentions to have him extradited to the U.S. to face drug and gun charges. Following are the latest developments from Jamaica:
The Jamaican Information Service has confirmed that 26 people have died during four days of fighting in Kingston. A CNN report placed the toll much higher at 44.
Tivoli Gardens “Under control”
Jamaica’s Public Defender, Earl Witter, said Wednesday that the Tivoli Gardens is now under the control of security forces and has been so for the past 24 hours.
“I think it is very clear that the police are entirely in control at Tivoli Gardens at this time and certainly have been for more than 24 hours,” said Witter during an interview with the Jamaican Information Service on Wednesday.
At the request of Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Witter and his team, which included the President of the Jamaican Red Cross, Dr. Jaslin Salmon, visited Tivoli Gardens on Wednesday and interviewed residents of buildings in the compound.
The residents, mostly women, children, and the elderly, complained about a lack of food, and not being able to get medication or access medical care.
“We endeavoured to ensure that the Ground Commander made the necessary arrangements for those who needed medical care to have it, even at makeshift facilities that had been set up primarily for injured servicemen. A number of civilians had been sent or taken and treated,” said Witter.
Witter added that the Red Cross took details of required prescriptions needed and that the “Red Cross would be seeing to the procurement of medication.”
Security forces acted with “restraint”
Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair said Wednesday that based on his observations, Jamaican security forces have acted with restraint in their efforts to arrest Christopher Coke.
“I think the security forces carried out their duties with restraint, with a level of professionalism, and the individuals were being processed based on international standards,” said Bishop Blair.
About 500 people have been detained since fighting began on Sunday and are being processed by authorities.
Kingston open for business
Minister Without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister With Responsibility for Information, Telecommunications and Special Projects, Hon. Daryl Vaz, said Wednesday that security forces will facilitate the free movement of people in the capital for those going about their lawful business.
“I have been in contact with the Chief of Staff and the Commissioner of Police and I have been assured that there will be adequate patrols in the downtown Kingston area concentrated in the business district,” Mr. Vaz said.
The Jamaican Information Service, on their website, suggested the following routes to be taken: “Slipe Road to Orange Street and all roads east of that, and also Harbour Street to Marcus Garvey Drive.”
The Jamaican Urban Transit Company said service in Downtown Kingston will resume on a limited basis. The government urged those travelling in downtown Kingston to have some form of identification while going about their business.
Schools to remain closed
All schools in Kingston will remain closed. In addition, schools in St. Andrews, Spanish Town, and St. Catherine will also remain closed.
Government agencies and departments will be open for business on Thursday.
Airport operations “normal”
Operations at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston are running smoothly and were expected to return to full normality by Thursday.
“Flight operations are normal here. A couple of airlines have cancelled their night flights, but the day flights are running normally,” said Director of Aviation Security, Lt. Commander John McFarlane.
“We anticipate that the situation should return to full normality by tomorrow, because of the control that is taking place on the streets,” he added.
“For the time being we know that American Airlines have cancelled their flight that normally comes in at about 7:30/8:00 P.M. Air Jamaica has also cancelled their Flight 36 that comes in from Fort Lauderdale at that time, otherwise the other flights are progressing normally,” Lt. Commander McFarlane said.
Also, British Airways [BA] advised its passengers on Wednesday that customers holding a ticket to and from Kingston in the next 72 hours were to rebook on another BA flight at no additional cost.
“If the same booking class is not available, the lowest class available in the same cabin may be booked,” the airline said. Lt. Commander McFarlane urged concerned passengers to call their airline for additional information.