Violence in Jamaica subsides
But some tension still remains
BY YVES COLON
KINGSTON, Jamaica -- The violence that has shaken this country
over the past three days subsided on Tuesday, but tension still remains
in isolated pockets as
protesters continued to erect barricades as fast as soldiers could remove them.
Bursts of gunfire could be heard in several neighborhoods.
A police officer became the latest victim of the violence that has now claimed 26 lives. He died after a crowd that pelted him with stones in Trelawney, northwest of the capital.
Still, the streets of Kingston seemed quieter Tuesday, even though police used tear gas to disperse crowds as they worked to remove the burning tires and cars that had been blocking the roads.
Soldiers armed with heavy weapons accompanied front-end loaders that cruised the streets to remove charred remains of tires and other debris still clogging the roads. Gunshots were sporadic, mostly from police officers making sweeps through neighborhoods in western Kingston. Late Tuesday night, residents of a part of the city reported a barrage of shots being fired in the air.
"This is a state of siege,'' said opposition leader Edward Seaga, head of the Jamaica Labor Party who represents the poor area of western Kingston where most of the violence has been taking place.
Most businesses remained closed, including the Central Bank and
the stock market. Concerned that continuing civil strife might further
damage Jamaica's tourist
economy, the island's business leaders stepped in Tuesday to seek a political solution to the crisis they say could hurt the country. Poverty has been one element fueling the conflict.
Accompanied by Seaga, businessmen from the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica toured the areas of western Kingston Tuesday morning where most of the unrest has taken place.
Most residents of the area are unemployed.
Peter Moses, president of the organization, said it was going to take more than one visit to Tivoli Gardens neighborhood to solve to the problems.
``This is very depressing,'' one of the businessmen on the tour of the western Kingston residential area.
``One could not imagine that there has been such depression in the community.''
Several members of the organization noted the need to create jobs to improve the lives of residents.
They said they intend to take their recommendations to Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.
Several church officials organized a small march in western Kingston
as well on Tuesday afternoon, bringing food and medicine to people who
say they barricaded
themselves inside their homes since the troubles flared on Saturday morning.
Jamaicans were hopeful that the meeting between Seaga and the business leaders would spur more dialogue, this time between Seaga and Patterson.
For several weeks, Seaga had rejected meetings with PNP officials as well as the Jamaica Council of Churches.
Late Monday he softened his stance after steadfastly refusing to meet with the representative of South St. Andrew, which borders West Kingston.
At the same time, officials were busy trying to control the damage
to their country's image, considering that tourism, which brings in $1.3
billion a year, accounts as
Jamaica's largest foreign exchange earner.
Fay Pickersgill, director of the Jamaica Tourism Board said few hotels have received cancellations.
But, she feared, hoteliers might suffer if Jamaicans living abroad decide not to return on holiday home to celebrate independence day and Sun Fest in Montego Bay.
``The bigger fallout will come from people who might see what is happening and make up their minds not to come at all,'' she said.
Partisans of Patterson's People's National Party say most of the
roadblocks are being set up by activists from Seaga's Labor Party.