Current Affairs

Tivoli Gardens and the Pursuit of Dudus – What’s Happening in Jamaica

A view new Tivoli from the railroad. © 1988 Christopher Edmonds

A view near Tivoli from the railroad. © 1988 Christopher Edmonds

Here’s a guest post by Diana Thorburn on what’s been happening here in Jamaica over the last few days. I think this is an accurate and fair assessment of the situation, explaining that this didn’t “just happen”.  Please share your comments and questions…

The violence began to flare up on Sunday with attacks by gunmen on police stations in the downtown Kingston area.  Monday, the day that the army entered Tivoli (and when the real combat began) was a public holiday here (Labour Day).

It’s a very complex situation, but… this was an expected set of events. That is, this didn’t “just happen”.

Here are the variables:

1. Jamaica has a long-standing problem, 30 years in the making, of well-armed criminal gangs and networks, most of them who make huge amounts of money in the international drug trade. Most, if not all of these gangs have affiliations of some sort to the two major political parties, though it would not be correct to say that they are controlled by the political parties (at least not anymore).

2. The U.S. last year issued a warrant for the arrest of one Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who they say is one of the most dangerous and powerful drug lords in the world. For a number of reasons (I’m trying to keep this simple—why the government didn’t comply with the extradition request is a whole issue unto itself) the Jamaican government did not extradite him right away, bringing immense US pressure on Jamaica that manifested in a number of ways, and which ultimately brought a near unanimous public voice here in Jamaica pressuring the government to hand Dudus over to the US.

3. Dudus’s home base is a small area of downtown Kingston called Tivoli Gardens, the creation and political base of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga. When Seaga retired, our current prime minister, Bruce Golding, took over the constituency, and inherited the problem of Dudus. Tivoli Gardens has long been considered a “state within a state”. Again it is a long and complicated story to explain the origins and existence of Tivoli Gardens, and other communities like it, so I won’t try to do that here.

4. One week ago, bowing to public and U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Golding announced that he had given instructions for the extradition to proceed. What this means is that a local warrant was issued for Dudus’ arrest. Dudus had the option of turning himself in (which is what usually happens when an extradition request is processed) and if he failed to do that, he would be sought by the security forces and arrested. (I might mention here that Dudus has a strong case against being extradited, because of breaches by the US of the extradition treaty, which was part of the reason the government didn’t extradite him in the first place.)

5. Ahead of Monday’s invasion of Tivoli, and in light of the mushrooming violence, a state of emergency for Kingston was announced on Sunday night. What this means is that the security forces have extraordinary powers to arrest, search and detain individuals (where as normally they’d need warrants, etc.)

6. The current violence, comprising attacks on police stations, and gun battles between gun men and state security forces, is a result of the marshalling, ostensibly by Dudus, of other criminal gangs, to challenge the state’s attempt to arrest him. Reports so far are that two policemen and a soldier are dead as a result of this violence, and many others wounded. It is these occurrences of violence that have basically shut the city down, as they are sporadic and unpredictable, and have occurred all over the city, not just in downtown. Apparently gunfire has been heard near our apartment too. Many businesses and schools have not opened today as a result of this aspect of the situation.

7. There is also, in Tivoli Gardens itself, a battle between the army and Tivoli gunmen. The army entered Tivoli yesterday to search for Dudus in order to capture and arrest him. There are no confirmed reports, but there are likely to be numerous casualties as a result of this operation, both civilian and security forces, as well as the gunmen themselves. Nearly 24 hours later, they have not been able to capture him yet.

Communities like Tivoli constitute an ongoing challenge to the ability of the state to assert its authority and maintain law and order in the country. And that challenge has been, and continues to be, the most formidable obstacle to the country’s economic and social development. I am not condoning the death of civilians by the security forces, and I will not be surprised if and when reports emerge that the security forces abused their powers, but Dudus (and those of his ilk) cannot remain above the law.

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  53. […] Read more about what happenen in Tivoli Gardens last May Tivoli Gardens and the pursuit of Dudus – What’s happening in Jamaica […]

  54. January 4, 2011 at 11:09 am — Reply

    I’m a bit late on this topic, but my response to Ian will always remain relevant until things change. Jamaica and the rest of the third world countries usually have corrupt politicians who are in cahoots with the central, global power, which at the time, happens to be the USA. This makes these countries entirely dependent on US manufactured goods because various businesses are owned by this super government power. Globalization is no help to the problem because third world countries somehow still have access to televisions and see the glitz and glamour of US culture and strive to make themselves appear to live in a perpetual music video – and when it comes down to it, globilizaton sends an everlasting message to people that anything produced over here, will be better than what is over there, and this only means that mass, mechanical production is better than what our two hands can provide. They definitely sold us on that idea. We have forgotten and abondened our ways of living off the food that nature provides in exchange for guns, obesity, and continous dependence on a money crazed system.

  55. […] 1. Tivoli Gardens and the pursuit of Dudus – What’s happening in Jamaica – an analysis by Dr. Diana Thorburn. […]

  56. November 10, 2010 at 7:15 pm — Reply

    […] Passa Passa has been suspended indefinitely since the May incidents in Tivoli Gardens. […]

  57. […] Passa Passa has been suspended indefinitely since the May incidents in Tivoli Gardens. […]

  58. […] For more on what happened in Tivoli Gardens and the pursuit of Dudus […]

  59. deenie
    June 27, 2010 at 4:43 am — Reply

    great article superbly organized and non bias

  60. Deb R.
    June 10, 2010 at 7:23 am — Reply

    It is going to be difficult to fix this mess with young people (in general) feeling the greed need to have all material things at once with as little effort as possible. It is happening everywhere -the difference is how each family , community and country decides to take charge of their situations.

    Once the Baby Boomers and my early portion of Generation x are gone -we are in big trouble. These are the groups who were taught to work for what you need and buy it when you can afford it. They/ we believe strongly in the family network, and show pride in how to present yourself to the world (in the Depression era, you couldn’t tell who was poor in the food line because black men were all wearing suits and talking to each other in the line with respect!)

    This is happening everywhere -it is just more prevalant in the countries where there are only 2 classes of people.

    How do we fix it? I don’t know without racing back time and semi-starting over again. Moral standards and rules were a part of everything, from home, to school, to work and back home again. You used to be able to sleep with all windows open and wake up with everthing in your home still there. Now that saying the Lord’s Prayer in school is a Supreme Court political issue, I think the world in general is mashed up.

    Maybe the degree of punishment and removing the current leniency on what is considered to be a crime is a start. The more you allow to be okay, the more okay everything wrong gets to be considered right.

    It’s funny how the pickney who were spanked and taught to “fear” adults seem to have the most moral sense in this world right now……..

    When you stir your food with a wooden spoon, it always tastes better!

  61. […] stories unfolding in the streets of Tivoli Gardens and across Kingston and beyond, that of the violence by State and by others, that of the bullets and bodies that haunt […]

  62. Janet B.
    June 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    Things will not improve in Jamaica until the citizens become more responsible, disciplined, educated & dedicated. Too many people depend on handouts from the govt. & community “Dons.” Building more hotels won’t solve the problem, & as long as there’s drug money ‘flowing’, there will be corruption & greed. Jamaica’s educated young people need to be given a chance to influence & lead. The political-career oldsters’ time has come & gone. I hope many qualified, techno. age, young candidates will be given an opportunity to try & save what’s left of our island during the next general elections.

  63. Norman Jones
    May 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm — Reply

    I feel that our sweet Jamaica, needs to be protected from all the thugs and drug dealers. They are painting an ugly picture of Jamaica. Jamaica is paradise. We need the Law abiding to joint to gather and take Jamaica back from the drug dealers and thugs.

  64. Natasha
    May 27, 2010 at 7:53 am — Reply

    Good summary

  65. May 27, 2010 at 12:32 am — Reply

    Thx. Ian…yes, it’s all a bit crazy. Things calming down now…we’re taking it one day at a time and hoping we learn the lessons we need to learn from this.

  66. Ian
    May 26, 2010 at 10:06 am — Reply

    We’ve got to start with the top echelons of government. You and I both know that. Nothing can be done if we do not weed-out those corrupt politicians. How in the world does a small island like Jamaican become the focal point for illegal US guns and Cocaine?? We both know how this happens.

    Whenever I go to Negril all is see is huge hotels that “wash” money. We both know what that’s about. The US is powerless to stop this, but we continue to get all the poison from the US such as pumped up Chicken with growth hormones and fast food.

    How is it possible that we can grow the sweetest bananas in the world, but can not sell a single one on the open market? How is it possible that we can turn sugar cane into brown sugar, ship it to New Orleans for refinement (turn it into white sugar), then buy it back at 3-times the price? Government-government corruption and the weak position we always take with the US.


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