Until the Commissioners complete the testimony of the some 300 expected witnesses, the enquiry will be an array of lasting moments, some less edifying than others.
Yesterday, an old lady named Joan McCarthy gave her testimony and was cross examined.
Much of what she described touched on how she and her family had been herded by soldiers and police, ‘badmouthed’ by them, and some of the young men taken to another apartment. Not all of them walked back down. Miss McCarthy (and she was quick to correct her title when stated as “Mrs”–a very interesting piece of Jamaican social interplay) told of seeing a pair of security officers carrying a blood-stained sheet downstairs. She could not see the body, but a leg and foot were hanging out. Enough was visible, she said, to confirm that the sheet contained the body of her grandnephew.
Under cross examination, she tried to expand on her answers, as witnesses often try to do. In trials, lawyers often stop such elaboration because it can dilute the point in an answer. But, this is not a trial. So, when the lawyer stops such elaboration one has to wonder about the purpose of this already flawed process. When the lawyer, Ms. Neita-Robinson tells the Commissioners that she’s doing this to avoid any “unnecessary narrative”, you should draw breath.
If you’ve seen or thought you’ve seen the dead body of a relative, whom you think has been just killed, ‘unnecessary narrative’ does not apply. This is grief coming out, and it should flow as it will. If it takes time then give it. Why add insult to injury?
At one point, the Commissioners adjourned for 20 minutes so that Ms. McCarthy could recompose herself. That’s an indication of what some people are having to endure.
Emotions are fragile elements of the human spirit. Play with them at your peril. There is no need to demean their expression.