By: Spokesman Newsroom
BASSETERRE, St.Kitts- Major General Stewart Saunders, a retired army chief and former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of National Security in Jamaica accused of poor judgement in the May 2010 Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston operation has been hired by the Harris-led administration, drawing heavy criticism from the Opposition St.Kitts-Nevis Labour Party.
Opposition leader, Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, the immediate former Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, addressed the matter while speaking on this week’s Party-sponsored Issues programme, aired on Wednesday 5th July on Freedom FM (106.5).
Dr. Douglas pointed out that if the findings of a Commission of Enquiry report have “labelled him (Saunders) unfit to ever hold an office in the police force in Jamaica, why is he being given a top position as the police officer and as the defense force officer here in St.Kitts and Nevis?”
“We have to be very careful about these things because people are sensitive to these things,” he noted.
He shared that contacts in Jamaica are questioning the government’s move to employ Saunders.
“People in Jamaica are calling and asking why he is being employed by the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security here in St. Kitts and Nevis. Has he been given proper reference? Has the Prime Minister not read the Commission of Enquiry Report? The Permanent Secretary, has he not read this particular report? Why is this happening?”
Dr. Douglas also questioned why Saunders was selected to be placed ahead of Commissioner of Police Ian Queeley and the Defence Force Commander Lt. Col. Patrick Wallace.
An article published by a top Jamaican media house, The Jamaica Gleaner, posted online at jamaica-gleaner.com, one year ago (Tuesday 5th July, 2016), gives some details about Saunders’ controversial background.
Headlined ‘Permanent Secretary for National Security to demit office’, in that particular article, it was disclosed that government insiders revealed that Major General Stewart Saunders was to demit office and that such development coincided with the release of the report of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry which was critical of Saunders’ role in May 2010 operation.
As reported: “During the enquiry, Saunders had revealed that Jamaica requested overseas assistance for aerial surveillance. He also admitted that he authorised the use of the explosives and revealed that 37 mortar rounds were fired into three open spaces in the Tivoli Gardens area.”
Furthermore: “The army had initially denied that explosives were used in the operations, despite reports from residents that “bombs” were used in their community. Saunders and then JDF Mortar Control Officer, Major Warrenton Dixon, explained to the three-member tribunal that the explosives were intended to keep women and children indoors and prevent armed thugs from using them as human shields.”
According to that media house, “But this explanation did not sway Simmons and his fellow commissioners who called the decision to fire mortars into the west Kingston community a serious error of judgement.”
Reportedly, “the commission said given the fact that Tivoli Gardens is a heavily-populated community, the use of the explosives was reckless and wholly disproportionate to the threats presented by criminal gunmen.”
Information issued by the Prime Minister’s Officer last Wednesday (28th June), indicated that on that day Saunders was introduced to Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris as the National Security Advisor-designate for St. Kitts and Nevis during a brief meeting at Government Headquarters.
It was also highlighted that Saunders’ appointment was approved by the Federal Cabinet and that he was in the Federation that week finalising his contract and meeting with high ranking members of the security forces and other National Security stakeholders..