The close encounter series by the Jamaica Observer has unwittingly fished out of a politician what most of us suspected, the nexus between politicians and gunmen.
Pearnel Charles is a former minister in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government of Edward Seaga and Bruce Golding. He was also a trade unionist with the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU). His was the face of the 1976 State of Emergency.
Reading the 7th in the series I was astounded by Pearnel’s acknowledgement to knowing gunmen and wondered if it was a confession of sort or simply that his lawyer did not read the script.
There are three “I knew” references in the article:
1. ……Michael and a few of his guys arrived. A guy named Cookie, whom I knew before, said to Michael, 'him have a gun', and I really had a gun.
"Michael looked at him and said, 'who have a gun here?' And Cookie leaned back, went down and up with his fist and landed it straight in my eye. I had on a pair of glasses and I recalled the glasses splintered, leaving one part of the frame on my face. He broke the glasses in my eye and at that point I pulled my gun and I fired it towards his belly.
2. "I was driving the car with Mr (Edward) Seaga beside me, and when we got to Potters Row, we came under attack," said Charles.
"I knew Burry Boy. When I drove up I saw him sitting on top of a Zephyr 6 motor car with a long gun and as we drove in, he started firing. Seaga shouted to me, 'let's turn around', and when I was driving off, a guy said, 'Pearnel, no lef we', and two JLP supporters jumped into the car.
……"We left unhurt, drove along Windward Road where we saw police stopping us, but I slowed and drove off fast again and only stopped when I reached Tivoli, where the police caught up with us," said Charles.
3. "Mr Seaga arranged for Enid Bennett to run against me for deputy leader and when I went to the Arena the day, there were four guys who drove up in a car. I knew three of them, and they had guns. One of them came up to me and said, 'Pearnel, no go in deh yu nuh. We nuh want yu go inna di Arena today, go home a yu yard'," he recalled.
"I said to myself, I don't even know these guys as Labourites and they are going to tell me that I can't go to a JLP conference. So I said, 'I going in, you know brethren'.
…..Within a few months, the three men whom he had seen with guns had died in separate violent incidents in the Corporate Area.
Does Pearnel know gunmen on both sides of the political divide?
Cookie and Burry Boy are presumably of the Peoples National Party (PNP).
The three of four with guns at the arena who he did not know as labourites, which party does he suppose they belonged to?
Bovell Committee was set up by the JLP to investigate charges of abuse and harassment at its 1992 party conference. Neither Pearnel Charles, Rose Shaw nor Douglas Vaz reported the incident to any of the 23 JDF or 110 police personnel who were stationed outside the arena. Charles and Shaw refused to appear before the committee and Charles wrote to them questioning its term of reference. Vaz appeared but there is no indication whether he disclosed the identity of the gunmen he saw outside the Arena.
Did Charles distrust the police why he felt safer to stop in Tivoli than on Windward Road when signaled to do so?
It appears that the informer fi dead culture permeates across the whole Jamaican society. Politicians who know of law breakers in their midst hardly see it as their responsibility to report it to the police. Clearly, it is easier to deprive society in general of their liberty with draconian laws like suppression of crime act, proceeds of crime act etc. than to single out the wrong doers they do know.
Source: Jamaica Observer, Jamaica Gleaner