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KINGSTON – Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding says that preparation of the 2011/12 budget has been delayed, due to his participation in the Commission of Enquiry into the extradition of Christopher Coke.

He told the Commission that the presentation of the budget has been put back for a week, because Cabinet has not yet been able to convene its customary retreat to approve the estimates.

“Cabinet has not yet retreated to give its final approval to the budget. That retreat would have been held this weekend, but because I’ve had to make myself available to the Commission it is not possible for me, as Prime Minister, to do the preparatory work for such a retreat,” he said.

Mr. Golding informed the Commission that the retreat has been rescheduled for next weekend. The 2011/12 Estimates of Expenditure are expected to be tabled in Parliament on Thursday, April 14, following the Ceremonial Opening of the new Parliamentary year, however, no official announcement has yet been made.

As cross-examination of Mr. Golding by People’s National Party (PNP) attorney, K.D. Knight, QC continued Wednesday March 30, the Prime Minister insisted that his authorisation of former Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Ronald Robinson, to meet members of a United States law firm in Washington D.C. was appropriate.

Mr. Golding said Dr. Robinson was sent to Washington in a “private” capacity as a member of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and was not acting officially as a government representative.

He was responding to questions raised Mr. Knight at the enquiry at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown, for a sixth day.

Reading from sections of a resignation letter submitted by Dr. Robinson to the Prime Minister, Mr. Knight said Dr. Robinson had stated that his contact with the law firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, could be “perceived as inappropriate”.

Mr. Knight questioned the Prime Minister as to whether he agreed with this statement, but Mr. Golding said that he did not.                 

“No, that was not my view,” responded Mr. Golding.

“So, Dr. Robinson’s meeting with Manatt, Phelps and Phillips was appropriate?” the attorney asked.

“Yes, because it was done on my specific instructions,” the PM answered.

Mr. Knight asked the Prime Minister whether, since he authorised the visit, it was appropriate to deem it a private visit. Mr. Golding argued that the visit was private, as it was not on behalf of the Jamaican government.

“In referring to whether a government official is acting in his official position, when you speak of private it means anything that is not government,” explained the Prime Minister. “So it can be business, it can be party matters, it can be personal matters – it is private."

The PNP attorney also asked if the visit could be termed as official party business, but the Prime Minister said it could not be deemed as such in that context.

“Because, it would mean that we would have to term everything that is not private, as in personal, and give it some description. That is not something that is normally done…by persons when they are referring to the capacity in which people act,” Mr. Golding replied.

“Couldn’t you have made it clear that it was party business without saying private?” asked Mr. Knight.

“I didn’t think it was necessary,” said the Prime Minister.

 

By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter