Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, says that the Government has an obligation to ensure and safeguard the constitutional rights of all Jamaicans.
Mr. Golding was referring to the issues which were at stake in the United States’ Government’s request for the extradition of Christopher Coke in 2009, as he opened his submission at the Commission of Enquiry into the proceedings at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston on Friday March 18.
The Prime Minister, responding to his attorney, Hugh Small Q.C., said that, in that regard, his Government would continue to pursue discussions with the United States Government on the issues, after the enquiry is concluded.
“I have deliberately restrained from entering upon those discussions at this time, because I feel it is appropriate to have this Commission concluded and its report submitted, but it is a matter that we intend to pursue,” Mr. Golding told the enquiry.
The Prime Minister said he was livid when attorney Harold Brady told him that the US law firm, Manatt Phelps and Phillips, had a preference to represent the Government rather than the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), as they felt they would be more effective acting on behalf of the Government.
“I became livid. I said to Mr. Brady, that was not the arrangement, government is not involved in this matter, it is a party initiative; and those were my clear instructions,” Mr. Golding insisted.
He testified earlier that Mr. Brady and former Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Ronald Robinson, had approached him about the need to seek assistance in the U.S. regarding the extradition request for Mr. Coke.
He said that both Mr. Brady and Dr. Robinson were of the view that the concerns raised by the Attorney General, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, about the extradition request, could not be resolved through the United States Embassy in Jamaica.
He said that what was suggested was the necessity to get someone, who could seriously enter into discussions with Jamaica on the issues and the concerns which had been identified.
“In the exchanges that took place between the Government of Jamaica and the US Embassy in the first few and several days after the receipt of the request, the attitude that was displayed by the US representatives was ‘hurry up and sign the thing’,” Mr. Golding said.
“We were told, for example, that similar requests had come in before and there had never been any question, or (were) any issues raised about it. What could possibly be the cause of raising those issues at that time? It became clear to me that we were not likely to make any headway in pursuing that dialogue (in Jamaica),” he added.
The Prime Minister also told the Commission that, because of the person (Mr. Coke) who was involved in the extradition and his own association with the Labour Party, it was his view that this was a matter that had to be resolved as quickly as possible.
“Pursuing the normal route, discussions at low diplomatic levels was not likely to deliver any early resolutions of those issues and, therefore, I was particularly anxious to achieve a level of discussion that would have brought that matter to a resolution, as quickly as possible,” Mr. Golding said.
In addition, the Prime Minister stated that no money was spent by the Government to pay the US law firm for its services.
Mr. Golding also told the Commission that he met Mr. Coke in 2005, before assuming the position of Member of Parliament for West Kingston.
“He exerted considerable influence within the community of Tivoli Gardens, especially among the young people,” Mr. Golding said.
He said that Mr. Coke was a benefactor, and was always concerned about projects that could be initiated to provide employment and opportunities for young people.
Mr. Coke was extradited to the US in June 2010, to face charges of gun and drug smuggling, based on evidence which included information acquired through local wiretaps, which the Government said breached the mutual treaty agreement between the two nations.
The Commission of Enquiry continues today March 21 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston at 9.30 a.m.
By LATONYA LINTON, JIS Reporter