'Extraterritoriality' has legal usage as the state of being exempt from local law. Some years ago I used 'extraterritoriality' to describe another, imaginative, state of exemption - how ordinary Jamaicans told adventure stories about personal transport out of social-political conditions on the island. Those stories were shaped by the actual movements of friends and relatives to, especially, New York, London and Toronto. However, Jamaican social scientist Obika Gray has used the word in a different, but related, sense - one that bears directly on the current 'news' about violent street fighting between the Jamaican Defence Force and residents of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.
Since colonial independence, specific sections or 'garrisons' in Kingston have become locked in a clientalist relationship between local 'dons' and one or other of the two major political parties. The symbiosis acts in such a way that these garrisons and their bosses acquire a de facto extraterritorial status vis-a-vis the judiciary because they are protected by whichever party they ally with and support at the elections. Tivoli Gardens, until now 'run' by 'President' Coke is a classic garrison community and likewise a classic example of extraterritoriality in Gray's sense. Tivoli Gardens 'supports' the JLP 'run' by Bruce Golding. Coke is admired by many in Tivoli Gardens because he redistributes proceedings from his international business to people locally.
Enter the other President - President Obama. This president wishes the Jamaican judiciary to extradite Coke because the US government views him as a lynchpin of cocaine and marijuana smuggling in the US. Over many years, the US government has tried to control the drug market within its own borders by using military, economic (including IMF) and diplomatic leverage on Caribbean states from Colombia to Jamaica and Haiti. During the early 1990s, the US put pressure on the Jamaican government to aerial spray marijuana plantations in mountainous central Jamaica. Since the chemicals would have run down the hillsides and entered every part of the ecosystem, and perhaps because marijuana is an immense source of income for the island economy, this was resisted. In contrast to Haiti, the US government cannot simply station tens of thousands of troops in Jamaica when it chooses: Jamaica is a two party democracy, a member of the British Commonwealth with the Queen of England as the head of state (but then, those things were true of Grenada too).
So the symbiosis extends further and so does the problem of extraterritoriality. Jamaica continues to supply a large part of the Marijuana that enters the US market and also helps to service a large part of the US requirement for cocaine. In return, out of the United States come the weapons used not only in Jamaica, but Mexico and elsewhere in Central America. Somewhere between 400000 and 1000000 Jamaicans live legally or illegally in the US. The US government wishes to overstep the customary politics of Jamaica. Hence, Bruce Golding's (now reversed) plea: 'I am going to uphold a position that constitutional rights do not begin at Liguanea': The US embassy is in Liguanea (about six miles across town from Tivoli Gardens)... It is the extraterritorial arm of the US in Jamaica...
On Friday, one of my oldest Jamaican friends rang me from the impoverished suburb where she lives with her three children and grandchild. She was just calling because she thought I would be worried about her and the family. In truth, I had thought she would be fairly safe (whatever safe means in Kingston, Jamaica) some distance across the other side of the city. No; 'they' - an indiscriminate army-gangsters-police - 'kill people all over town'; shootouts less than a mile away, bodies in the shanties nearby. I mentioned Coke by name and she paused - 'we musn't talk too loud', because 'they' were listening. The measure of unsustainability and impossibility in the relationship of state and people in Jamaica has expanded to a new notch.
Postscript (11 June 2012):
After the extradition of Coke to the U.S. and a lengthy trial, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison. But the wider and fuller ramifications of the case remain unexplored.