Minister of National Security, Senator Dwight Nelson, yesterday stoutly denied that he had said the extradition of Christopher Coke would “cause the government to collapse."
“I never uttered any such words or any words that could be interpreted as such, ”Senator Nelson said during his testimony at the Commission of Enquiry into the extradition request, which is being held at the Jamaica Conference Centre.
Former Commissioner of Police, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, in his testimony before the Commission on February 4, claimed the National Security Minister made the statement, when he tried to solicit the Minister’s response to the extraction request, during a meeting in August, 2009.
Minister Nelson, in denying the claim, testified that on August 24, 2009 he received a telephone call from the former Commissioner seeking a meeting with him.
“He said to me that both himself and former Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Stewart Saunders, needed to discuss an urgent matter. I said to Rear Admiral Lewin, if it is an urgent matter you should come to my office immediately. Both himself and General Saunders came to my office. Rear Admiral Lewin said to me that he had been informed by the American Embassy that the following day, they would be making a request for the extradition of Mr. Coke,” Senator Nelson recalled.
He related that he then telephoned Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding and told him about the development, as he felt that it would affect his constituency. Senator Nelson said that both men then left his office for a meeting with the Prime Minister.
In the meantime, the Security Minister said he learned of the existence of the four Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), on which the United States relied in the extradition of Coke, when Mr. Golding asked that the Ministry of National Security be searched to locate the documents.
He also informed that after an extensive search, the documents were found at Up Park Camp, which is the headquarters of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
Senator Nelson also testified that he does not agree with the decision taken by former National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, not to reveal the contents of the MOUs to other members of the Cabinet.
“I would certainly seek the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s approval before signing these documents. Signing these documents as a Cabinet Minister creates an obligation on the part of the Government and the Cabinet must have collective responsibility for any agreed obligation on the part of the Government. For individual members of the Cabinet to have collective responsibility on a matter they know nothing about, I would think it would be unacceptable to me,” Senator Nelson said.
During his testimony at the Commission of Enquiry, Dr. Phillips, informed 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.
Senator Nelson, in the meantime, told the Enquiry that Cabinet has approved amendments to the Interception of Communications Act. He said drafting instructions have been given to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.
The Commission of Enquiry will continue today with further cross examination of Dr. Phillips.
CONTACT: LATONYA LINTON