Prime Minister Bruce Golding yesterday made his first visit to Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston since bloody clashes between security forces and gunmen supporting former strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
But the visit was marred by a ban on the media enforced by soldiers shortly before Golding arrived with a large entourage including Kingston mayor, Desmond McKenzie.
Golding has been member of parliament for West Kingston since he succeeded former prime minister, Edward Seaga who stepped aside in 2005, and McKenzie has been councillor for the Tivoli Division in the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation for decades.
No explanation was given for the decision to bar the media who were in West Kingston to report on the exercise of relatives identifying photographs of those killed. That took place at the Tivoli Gardens community centre and the Denham Town police station.
Golding, his face a mask of concern, as he toured the battle-scarred community, got a mixed reception from residents.
Speaking with journalists afterward, McKenzie admitted that not all of Golding's constituents welcomed him with open arms.
"Some people were glad to see him, as usual we wouldn't expect everybody to be happy. But the fact that he was there and he has heard the concerns of the people this is now just the start to deal with the situation," said McKenzie.
Some people of Tivoli Gardens, McKenzie said, openly chided Golding for not giving them more support during the bloody incidents. They said that Golding, who gave the authority for the declaration of an ongoing state of emergency, had let them down.
A team of social workers and representatives from the Jamaica Public Service and the National Water Commission, also visited the area yesterday in an effort to provide improved services to the people.
A news release from the Office of the prime Minister (OPM) said Golding spoke with several residents, some of whom had lost family members in the confrontation between the security forces and gunmen supporting Coke. Some complained that their homes had been completely gutted or badly damaged.
"All the residents who spoke with Mr Golding relived for him the horror of the events which they said had left many residents traumatised. The prime minister advised them to give reports of their experience to the Public Defender, who has opened a special office in Tivoli Gardens for that purpose," the OPM said.
"Several of the residents who spoke to the prime minister expressed their relief that he had come to see them and to hear firsthand accounts of their experience," the release added.
West Kingston has for decades been the seat of power for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), but several residents expressed disaffectiion with Golding and the party, following the intervention of the security forces, leaving a question mark over the future of the area's political allegiance.
But McKenzie, when questioned by reporters, said those concerns were secondary, at least for now.
"We can't talk about politics right now, that is one of the reasons why the country is in the state it is," he said.
"Anytime something happens we put the political line into it. We are talking about the lives of people in West Kingston. That is what we must first and foremost focus on," he said.
source: Jamican Observer