Chairman of the Commission of Enquiry into the extradition of Christopher Coke, Emil George ruled on (February 16), that witnesses will be barred from reading aloud contents of the Memoranda of Understanding, while under cross examination.
Attorneys-at-law at the enquiry, which is being held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, became concern when lawyer for the Jamaica Labour Party, Frank Phipps asked Opposition Member of Parliament, Dr. Peter Phillips, to read paragraphs from one of the Memoranda of Understanding (MoU).
Mr. Phipps had sought to determine from Dr. Phillips, whether the MoUs went beyond what is permitted in local law relating to wiretapping. However, Dr. Phillips had insisted that the MoUs do not allow for the interception of communication, while noting that interception of communication is ordered by a court.
Before Dr. Phillips could refer to the document, his attorney, Deborah Martin objected to her client reading the classified document.
“I am a little concerned about the exercise we are embarking on, because we may as well put the entire MoU in the public’s domain. If it is that my client is going to read paragraph by paragraph, then it makes a mockery of our efforts to secure the contents of the document,” Miss Martin said.
Queen’s Counsel, Hugh Small, who is representing Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, also joined in the objection and cautioned the Chairman against such a move, adding that it could impact national security and bilateral relationships.
After hearing the concerns from the attorneys, Mr. George ruled that the cross examination on the MoUs should continue in chambers. However, Attorney at Law, Valerie Neita Robertson was against such a move.
This resulted in an early break and on resumption from adjournment, Mr. George ruled that he will allow questions on the documents, but witnesses would only be allowed to read the content of the MoUs to themselves.
“We must preserve what we can of it, therefore we will ask questions on the MoUs, but try and preserve as much as possible, the sort of privilege position of it,” Mr. George said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Phillips noted that even though he had signed copies of the MoUs without Cabinet’s approval, he sought legal advice from the Attorney General’s chambers as well as the Solicitor General’s office.
He also mentioned that the Prime Minister at the time, Hon. P.J. Patterson was not “specifically briefed on the documents, but the Prime Minister was entirely aware of the capabilities that existed with respect to gathering intelligence and intelligence sharing."
Dr. Phillips is scheduled to continue his testimony at the Commission of Enquiry on Friday, February 18. The Commission will continue tomorrow, February 17 with the testimony of Minister of National Security, Senator, the Hon. Dwight Nelson.
CONTACT: LATONYA LINTON