KINGSTON – The Commission of Enquiry into the extradition of Christopher "Dudus" Coke heard its first "off camera" testimony Monday morning March 21, when the television crew was barred from filming civil servant, Verna McGaw.
Mrs. McGaw, a former Executive Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, is said to reside in a volatile area and felt her safety could be jeopardized.
Chairman of the Commission, Emil George Q.C., barred videotaping of her during the proceedings to protect her identity. However, audio recordings and other forms of coverage were allowed.
The secretary was called to give evidence because the Commission was unable, last week, to determine who sent an email from Miss Lightbourne’s office to Solicitor General, Douglas Leys, and Attorney-at-Law, Harold Brady.
The email, which was reportedly sent by Mrs. McGaw while she was employed to the Minister, outlined a conversation between the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Lisa Palmer Hamilton, and Senator Lightbourne, on the extradition of Mr. Coke. However, the Justice Minister last week said she had not given instructions for the e-mail to be sent.
On Monday, Mrs. McGaw testified that on September 16, 2009 she was presented with a hand-written letter by the Minister, instructing her to type the information and send it by e-mail to Mr. Leys and Mr. Brady.
After presenting Mrs. McGaw with a copy of the e-mail in question, Attorney-at-Law, Simone Mayhew, asked if she could say whether the information in the body of the e-mail accords with what she typed on September 16.
“No, I don’t,” was Mrs. McGaw’s response.
At this point, Attorney representing the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Frank Phipps Q.C. raised an objection to the witness being questioned any further, based on her answer.
“Mr. Chairman, can we really go any further after the witness’s last statement? Isn’t that the end of the matter?” he said.
However, People's National Party Attorney K.D. Knight disagreed with Mr. Phipps’ suggestion. TheCommissioners ruled that the witness could be further questioned.
Mrs. McGaw is expected to return to the Enquiry on today March 22 to be further cross examined.
Consultant Adviser to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Marcia Beverley, also testified before the Commission. Mrs. Beverley told the enquiry that it was the custom for officers of the DPP to take extradition documents to the Ministry of Justice.
“It is customary for the DPP to come with the original document,” said Mrs. Beverly.
In recounting what happened on August 25, 2009, Mrs. Beverley said she met with Miss Lightbourne sometime before her 1 p.m. lunch session.
“She asked me to call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find out if there was an extradition request (for Christopher Coke),” she said. Mrs. Beverley said she carried out the Attorney General’s instructions.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter