KINGSTON – Prime Minister, Hon Bruce Golding, has said that the circumstances surrounding the request from the U.S. for the extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, would not have allowed him to distance himself from the matter.
Mr. Golding was testifying before the Commission of Enquiry into the handling of the extradition, on Friday March 25, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.
Under cross examination by People’s National Party (PNP) lead Attorney, K.D. Knight, the Prime Minister said he became involved, seeking a speedy resolution of the matter. He denied earlier inferences by Mr. Knight that he became involved because Coke was from his West Kingston constituency and was connected to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
“…because of the personage of Christopher Coke, and the inferences that would be drawn… the speculation that would have been aroused… the suspicions that might exist, my involvement was designed to seek the earliest possible resolution of the matter,” Mr. Golding said.
“With hindsight, don’t you think you should have distanced yourself from the extradition request?” questioned Mr. Knight.
“That would not have been possible, Mr. Chairman,” Mr. Golding replied, addressing Commission Chairman, Emil George Q.C.
“You could not have left the Minister of Justice to have handled the matter, without your involvement?” prompted the Attorney.
“The Minister of Justice dealt with the matter without my interference,” Mr. Golding responded. “What initiatives I was involved with did not, in any way, impede the Minister of Justice in her handling of the matter.”
Mr. Knight also asked the Prime Minister if he generally trusted the judgment of the Justice Minister and Attorney General on extradition matters, to which Mr. Golding replied, yes.
The Prime Minister also told the Commission that he did not believe the engagement of the firm, was in conflict with the responsibilities of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
“I felt that the Minister of Justice had a particular statutory responsibility in the matter. I did not feel that her role should be in any way affected or impacted by the initiative that Mr. (Harold) Brady had been authorised to undertake,” he testified.
“I had hoped that the results of that initiative would have improved the chances of her exercising her function, and to ensure that we got the kind of dialogue going that we had hoped for, but I did not want the two to be co-mingled,” Mr. Golding explained.
It was announced on Friday that the Commission has been granted another extension by Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Patrick Allen, on the request of the Commission’s Chairman. Mr. George revealed that the Enquiry has been extended until May 16.
He, however, noted that he hoped cross-examination of all witnesses would be completed by next week Friday.
The Commission was scheduled to end in February, but delays and lengthy cross-examinations forced Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, to grant an extension to March 31.
The final witness, Prime Minister Golding, is yet to be cross examined by several attorneys. The Commission has also been delayed for a further two days as Mr. Golding’s attorney, Hugh Small, stated that his client would not be available next Monday and Tuesday, due to important government business.
Mr. Golding is scheduled to be further cross examined on Wednesday (March 30), when the Commission resumes.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter