It is the third day since the State of Emergency was called for the city of Kingston and St. Andrew and since then, the violence, tension and battle between the security forces and gunmen has only escalated with casualties. The joint police and military forces made their way into the fortified and well defended garrison of Tivoli Gardens on Monday and was greeted by the expected heavy gunfire from those defending the Dudus stronghold, now termed by some as the Repuplic of Tivoli. However, the gun battles were not limited to just the Tivoli area, as it seemed that the entire Kingston was yesterday engulfed into this war between criminals and the security forces. Sporadic gun battles dotted the Kingston metropolitan area, in neighboring communities, however it also spread to the distance community of Red Hills Road and even as far as sections of Spanish Town.
The continuous gun battles have now claimed many victims since it started from both sides. the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has reported that twenty six (26) civilians have been confirmed dead. The News has also reported that two (2) police officers in a gun battle in Mountain View and one (1) JCF officer and three (3) Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers have also been killed in the gun battle in the Tivoli Gardens operation. The Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) which has been treating many of the victims of this war, has not been spared the trauma of the gun battles as it too, despite the heavy contingent of security forces, heavy gun fire nearby sent patients and personnel scampering for cover. Residents of Tivoli Gardens and nearby communities have been calling in on local television stations and radio stations, now in desperation and fear due to the heavy exchange of gunfire between the security forces and gun men loyal to Dudus and painting a picture of the dire situation facing these embattled communities.
Photo: The Jamaica Gleaner
The standoff between the security forces and these armed criminals continues today in the affected regions and doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon. Several business places in the countries capital especially ones in and near the affected areas remain closed. However, the overseas exam board which oversees the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and the General Certificate of Education (GCE) exams as well as the Ministry of Education has insisted that students who have exams today should still sit them, but report to alternative locations. No doubt having to sit an exam in these conditions will affect the performance of the students that have risked their very lives to attend these exams. The reality of the danger these students face was reinforced this morning in the Marescaux Road area, which is surrounded by Wolmer's and St. Hugh's High Schools, when gunshots rang out while students were sitting their exams.
As the battle rages on and the security forces fight to regain control from these highly armed criminals, stability is still a goal to be achieved and normalcy a dream being pursued. It is a harsh reality, but at this rate more blood will be shed and more tears will fall in this battle for control and the apprehension of the wanted Tivoli "president" Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. We can only hope that this will end shortly and that the city can once again bustle with life and that some good will come out of this battle between our security forces and the many criminal elements that grip our capital.
Sources: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com, http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/