Minister of National Security Peter Bunting killed off the hopes of a nation in Parliament on Tuesday when he deflected questions from opposition legislators as to why Jamaican Police Chief Owen Ellington suddenly handed in his retirement papers. There have been charges from people close to the commissioner that he was forced out of the position by western nations angry with him and the top brass for not dealing with a hit squad in the police force, allegedly responsible for more than 70 executions in recent years.
Admitting that many were expecting a detailed explanation from the floor, Bunting said he was not that surprised that Ellington had decided to throw in the towel in the the wake of planned investigations into suspected executions by police units and the nature of running a force in a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world.
“The job of commissioner in a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world is extremely tough and demanding,” he said as legislators waited for a detailed explanation as to why the 52-year-old chief with several years before mandatory retirement decided to hang up his uniform and go home instead. “The honorable house will appreciate that many matters dealt with by a minister of national security are in their nature secret. In such cases, it would be irresponsible to disclose this information publicly.”
Still, the minister said that local law enforcement agencies have lost millions of concession aid funding from international partners, angry with authorities about human rights abuses by police and soldiers.
Such allegations first surfaced during the summer of 2010 when police and soldiers engaged in about a week of gunfights with residents of the West Kingston depressed garrison community of Tivoli Gardens.
At the time, and with intelligence help from the U.S., soldiers and police were trying to arrest and dislodge feared area Don Christopher “Dudus” Coke on international gun smuggling and cocaine trafficking charges at the behest of the U.S. He has since been extradited and jailed for more than 20 years by an American court. More than 70 people were killed including a soldier and police officers but charges from residents about indiscriminate killings have stuck and morphed into allegations that a police hit squad was at work.
Similar allegations also faced the Guyanese police force a decade ago. The U.S. State Department cancelled the entry visas of the security ministry and then police chief. Other nations followed suit or said they were would have similarly acted if any applications for such documents were applied for.
Howard Mitchell, chief Ellington’s attorney, was publicly adamant that Bunting folded under pressure from the west and forced his hand. Local newspapers and opposition shadow minister on security Derrick Smith have all complained about a cover up, saying the issue has split the nation down the middle and cries out for explanation.
“The people of our country deserve some respect from their government,” Smith said as the saga continues. A new chief is to be named in September, amid calls for a foreigner to sit in the seat.