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Stabroek News

The remaking of a garrison - The Mountain View story
published: Sunday | October 2, 2005

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

AT THE height of the bloodshed in Mountain View Avenue last week, the name Sandra 'Dionne' Thompson came from the mouths of residents at Jacques Road.

Not much has been said about her during the violent exchanges, but it was Ms. Thompson's death four years ago that triggered a gangland feud that continues to this day throughout the East Kingston community.

"Who, Dionne? Yeh, man, a did good girl. All now dem nuh find a who kill her," said one woman who says she has lived at Jacques Road for 18 years.

"But dem did haffi tek care a har 'cause she did a switch," another man blurted.

Known for years as a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) activist from Jacques Road, Ms. Thompson, 39, was murdered on September 3, 2003. Her body, riddled with bullets, was discovered by police in the Back Bush area of Mountain View Avenue.

Police say no one has ever been held for her murder, but popular talk held that she was gunned down by JLP supporters because she was switching allegiance to the governing People's National Party (PNP).

In the week of her death, seven persons were murdered in Mountain View; four of them killed by gunmen at a tenement on September 7.

Four years on, there is still talk of persons switching from JLP to PNP as being the root of violence in Mountain View Avenue, an undulating stretch dotted by politically-divided enclaves.

Four persons - three women and a three-month-old baby - were murdered at Jacques Road and Hunter Avenue last week. Several residents have fled Jacques Road where the fighting is hottest; the ones who choose to remain say even sleeping at night is difficult.

"Mi sleep wid one eye open," said one woman, a mother of four children. "Mi get fi undastan' sey dem waan turn the place into PNP ... Everybody used to live like one, yuh nuh, but since dis man come in an' start buy out everybody, things change."

She did not name 'the man' or say where he came from, but says he and his thugs have driven fear into Jacques Road which has supported the JLP since the late 1970s. Not even the Mountain View police, who are stationed a stone's throw away from Jacques Road, have the confidence of residents.

"Dem a tek side an' dat is a fact," said another woman within earshot of police patrolling the area last Wednesday. "I don't know if a some a dem a work wid the same man wey a 'cause all the trouble."

Superintendent Doric Sinclair, head of the Kingston East Police Division, told The Sunday Gleaner that things have cooled considerably since the police threw a curfew over the area on Tuesday. He says Mountain View is a 'difficult place to police.'

"What is unique about Mountain View is that it is a road, but off the road there are several communities with different political affiliations. I'm not saying what's happening is a political thing but from time to time they can't live together," he explained.

The police have found the tough going in Mountain Avenue tougher this year.

HOMES BURNT

In April, four homes were burnt by gunmen, with 18-year-old Sutanyo Wilson perishing in the blaze. In May, two men were murdered at Bygrove Avenue and three persons shot and injured as they rode in minibuses.

Then, in June Twain Barnes, a 24-year-old private in the Jamaica Defence Force, was killed during a joint military/ police patrol there.

Despite intervention by the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) in May, residents say the fighting continues. They believe, like the police, that Member of Parliament Maxine Henry-Wilson and the PMI serve little purpose.

"Dem nah do nuthin fi nobody, yuh nuh," said a 27-year-old mother of two children. "As dem leave the area, so the fighting start again."

Mrs. Henry-Wilson, members of the PMI and Deputy Commissioner of Police Mark Shields toured the Mountain View area on Thursday. During the tour, DCP Shields said three persons have been arrested for the deaths of 37-year-old Celia Berry, 23-year-old Jashrine Reid and her baby, and Melissa Irving, 25.

But it will take more than the symbolic presence of public officials to convince the people of Mountain View of their safety from bloodthirsty gunmen. According to the mother of two, the next outbreak of violence will see her joining the list of evacuees.

"All school mi pickney dem 'fraid fi go ... Mi nuh know wey mi a go but mi have fi find it 'cause mi have my two kids a live for," she said.

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