Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington briefed the media on the operation which started in Kingston Western since Monday (May 24).
At the centre of this operation is the effort by the Jamaica Constabulary Force supported by the Jamaica Defence Force to execute a warrant of arrest on an individual, Christopher Coke, who is wanted in the United States of America for drugs trafficking and arms trafficking offences.
For many years now organized crime and transnational organized crime has plagued Jamaica.
We have been in cooperation with our international partners in investigating with a view to bringing down significant figures in organized crime. We have a long history of cooperation and success in that regard and there are many individuals who have been arrested here and extradited to the USA and other countries for trials for crimes committed across national borders.
Christopher Coke is one such individual who is accused of involvement in transnational crime. The difference with Coke is that he and persons sympathetic to him believe that he is above the law. He believes that he should not be arrested in Jamaica and he should not face trial in a foreign country for crimes that he has committed.
In the last several months there has been great deal of discussion about the extradition proceedings regarding Coke.
Within the last two weeks the issue became an operational one, meaning that it has now fallen into the domain of law enforcement.
We have in our possession a warrant for the arrest for Christopher Coke and we are determined to execute that warrant.
Since Sunday of this week, criminal elements in and around Tivoli Gardens, and in communities where gangs are embedded that are sympathetic to Coke have staged coordinated criminal attacks against security forces (our men on patrol, our vehicles, and our assists).
To-date (May 28):
14 police stations and buildings have been shot up by criminal elements
3 have been torched
2 burnt to the ground
All of these acts of violence against the security forces have been unprovoked; they coincide with the knowledge that we now hold a warrant for Coke’s arrest.
We have intelligence which is credible that criminal elements from across Jamaica have assembled in Tivoli Gardens in an effort to support Coke and his gang in resisting attempts of Law enforcement.
On Monday of this week, we launch phase 2 of a joint police- military internal security operation aimed at executing the warrant on Coke.
To-date that operation has led to the detention of over 700 persons many of whom have been profiled and processed some of whom have been released and allowed to return to their communities.
We have identified among the group, individuals who we may have been wanted previously for arrest and they have been arrested, we have also identified persons who are persons-of-interest for serious crimes and they are remaining in custody.
We have lost:
3 members of the security forces
2 members of the police force were killed on Sunday night when they were ambushed along Mountain View Avenue
1 member (JDF) killed.
8 members of the police force are nursing gunshot injuries
several members of the JDF have been injured
Some 73 Civilians have been killed among them 2 females.
Some of the males were dressed like females when they were killed.
It is not yet clear as to whether all of these individuals were killed by gunfire from the security forces because criminal elements have been firing shots at all security force positions and patrols since Sunday.
NO BODIES BURNT
There have been reports that the security forces have been engaged in the burning and burying of bodies in a secretive way, both allegations are false.
In the case of the allegation of the burning of bodies, the area of operation was visited by the Political Ombudsman, the Public Defender, Director of the Red Cross Jamaica, and none of these individuals found any signs of attempts to burn bodies.
The allegation about bodies being buried in secret is false. What happened. is that, there were several bodies that have been badly decomposed and the undertaker told us that they could not be taken into storage.they had to be buried early.
As is a normal procedure in Jamaica, arrangements were made for those bodies to be collected by the undertakers; they were put in coffins and taken to the cemetery.
The pathologists were then brought in and; Commissioner of Police.4
autopsies were conducted on spot
blood samples were taken
photographs were taken, and
fingerprints were taken of the deceased persons.
No order was given for the burial, but it would have been given, since yesterday.
A decision has been taken not to bury the bodies. We have been trying to find an alternate location and facility where the capacity exists to preserve bodies in that state.
I must admit that the security forces in that regard were acting in accordance with normal procedure; they had no intentions whatsoever to bury bodies in secret and on reflection, I believe that given the sensitivity of this matter we should have allowed them to remain in the cemetery without moving towards taking that decision.
The truth is that none was buried and any person who wishes to examine the cemetery and look for freshly dug graves can do so, we will make it available to you.
I hope that the arrangements that have been put in place to preserve those bodies. I hope it works.
I would hate to know that we are retaining bodies in that state of decomposition. that they can pose a threat to public health. Our consideration in the first instance was to preserve public health.
Since yesterday we have made arrangements for the citizens of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town to move around freely in their communities.
We have however, issued guidelines to the residents and citizens in Tivoli Gardens
not to go near the barricades
not to come in contact with any strange objects in the community
not to leave children around unsupervised and in any instance where they hear of explosions to return to their dwellings.
The reason for this, the area was heavily barricaded, there were explosives embedded in the barricades and all of these were sent as traps for the security forces.
We have not yet been able to completely demolish them and to completely search the community and until we are able to do that and to establish complete security over that community, it still remains a place where we have serious concerns about human safety and human security.
We have agreed for the Public Defender to establish an office in the community of Tivoli Gardens to take citizens’ complaints and launch investigations into any allegations of abuse or atrocities.
We in the leadership of both forces have constantly reminded our members everyday and in the case of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, every hour, we send a message to our members reminding them to treat citizens with respect, to be professional, to be disciplined in what they are doing.
We have made it clear to them that our success in this mission can only be assured by professionalism and the performance of our members.
I would like to reassure the country that this problem is localized and confined in a small geographical area of Kingston over which the government has issued a limited state of emergency.
The rest of Jamaica remains stable and peaceful.
The rest of Jamaica and visitors can go about their normal business.
I am happy to say that the search process which is going on now is proving to be very successful and predictable because now that we are able to conduct more indulgent searches in there we have been coming up with weapons and ammunition.