Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, returned to the witness chair yesterday March 7 as the Commission of Enquiry into the extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke continued at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.
Under cross examination from Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) lead attorney, Frank Phipps, Miss Lightbourne testified that her increased concern over a possible breakdown in public order led to a review of her decision and her signing the extradition request for Mr. Coke.
She said despite her concerns that his constitutional rights were being breached and that the United States had not submitted sufficient evidence – in particular the evidence obtained from the interception of Coke’s telephone conversations – she had to consider the effect any further delay would have on the society as a whole. She testified that she, therefore, placed the good of the country over the constitutional rights of Mr. Coke.
“The public was in an uproar. Every association in this country, at that time, was crying out for the matter to be put before the Court. Civic organisations, the Church, human rights organisations, (and) ordinary citizens were saying, ‘put the matter before the Court,’” she told the Commission.
“Bodies and organisations were refusing to cooperate with the Government. It was almost coming to social disorder, so I had to review my position.”
Mr. Phipps questioned: “Did any of these loud voices that were raised in protest ever asked, ‘well let me see this evidence, let me see what it is they have presented to you?’”
“Nobody asked, and nobody raised one word that this was a citizen of Jamaica,” replied the Attorney General. “Not one person was interested in that.”
“So, despite the condition in which the evidence appeared and despite the pressure that was being placed on you, you came to a decision to take action?” further asked Mr. Phipps. “I did,” she answered.
Miss Lightbourne reiterated that since she was unable to obtain judicial clarification of the legal issues raised in her application, she had to resolve the issues in her own best judgement. She told the Commission that, at the same time, tensions had increased and the national interest demanded that a decision be made.
“I took into account that there was some evidence against the subject of the request, even if the material gained by the intercepts were excluded. I also took into account Section 16 of the MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty), which provides explicitly that I consider other essential public interests of Jamaica in exercising my discretion. And there was no doubt in my mind that the public interest concerns were, at that time, paramount,” she stated.
She further said, in any event, Mr. Coke would not be precluded from contesting before the Jamaican Court the request for his extradition.
“Accordingly, I advised the Prime Minister and the Cabinet at a meeting held on the 17th of May, 2010, at approximately 11:00 a.m. that I would be signing the Authority to Proceed,” the Justice Minister testified.
CONTACT: ATHALIAH REYNOLDS