Jim Brown carried himself with a certain swag- ger as he fought his extradition—after all, he’d beaten plenty of cases before. “Dem say dem ’ave tings to say,” he boasted to news cameras. “Well, me have tings to say, too.” But while he was biding his time behind bars, his eldest son and heir apparent, Mark “Jah T” Coke, was shot dead while sitting on his motorcycle. Then on February 23, 1992, the day of Jah T’s funeral, Jim Brown burned to death inside his pris- on cell. The fire was officially ruled an accident, but suspicion lingers that Brown may have been killed be- cause he had too many “tings to say,” especially about his political connections.
At Jim Brown’s funeral, a massive crowd of 35,000 came out to express their love. Prime Minis- ter Seaga gave the eulogy. (Imagine President George Bush speaking at a John Gotti memorial.) “See him as this community sees him—as a protector of the peo- ple,” Seaga told reporters, fulfilling his own role as the peoples’ guardian and true architect of Tivoli Gardens. It was he who bulldoze the Rasta shantytown of Back O’ Wall in the ’60s to make room for Tivoli, Jamaica’s first high-rise housing project. In footage taken at the funeral service, young Christopher Coke can be seen among the pallbearers carrying his father’s casket. With his brother and father murdered, “Shortman” was the new boy king of the Tivoli Republic.
“He was somebody that didn’t talk,” recalls Miss Kidd-Deans, Seaga’s former special assistant. “He would give you a smile and a nod. Some people would say that is dangerous, but it is also good because it made him survive for so long. His ninth-grade math teacher at elite Ardenne High School told the Jamaica Gleaner that Coke was one of his brightest students. Relations between Prime Minister Seaga and the Coke family would be strained three years after Jim Brown’s death when Seaga included Dudus’ name on a list of 13 “troublemakers” that he handed over to the police commissioner.
When Seaga stepped down in 2005, after 43 years representing Western Kingston in the Jamai- can Parliament, Dudus had transformed himself from a restless youth into an enterprising businessman: founder of the Presidential Click production com- pany and a thriving construction firm, Incomparable Enterprises. He was also a stabilizing force in the community, brokering peace with rival dons. When an- other of his brothers, Chris Royal, was killed by police, he resisted calls to avenge the death, dismissing all talk of reprisal killings as an “idiot ting.”
On Seaga’s 80th birthday, Tivoli was still burning. Plans to celebrate in fine style with a live performance by Mavado were disrupted. In a remarkable inter- view televised across the island, an emotional Seaga demanded Dudus turn himself in without without fur- ther delay: “If you want to live, give yourself up. You never should have thought you could have fought the security forces… And I’ll go on to say that what I want is for the people who are in captivity in West Kings- ton, the six or seven thousand households that are in captivity. I want those people to be freed so that they can go out and get food and water and baby milk and medication. I want them to be freed.”
Asked if he accepted any responsibility for legitimizing criminal activity, the man who represent- ed Tivoli for 43 years laid all blame at his successor’s feet. “When I left there they were what one would call a medium-size gang,” he insisted. “I didn’t give them any multimillion-dollar contracts, which would enrich them to the point where they could do without their member of parliament. I didn’t do that.”
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