An Opposition Motion seeking to censure Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, for her actions during the process of the extradition of Christopher Coke was easily defeated in the Senate Friday (July 2).
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Hon Dorothy Lightbourne
The Motion, brought by Opposition Senator, Sandrea Falconer, was defeated by a count of 12 votes to six. There are 13 Government Senators (including the President)and eight Opposition Senators.
Senator Lightbourne defended that her duty was to ensure that the extradition request from the United States’ Government complied with the Extradition Treaty provisions, and that Mr. Coke’s rights as a Jamaican citizen were protected.
“What has sustained me is the knowledge that I discharged my duty with the utmost propriety and professionalism,” she stated.
The Minister noted that the decision to extradite a Jamaican citizen is a matter for the executive and not the Courts. She said this was so, because no person can be extradited without the Minister first issuing an authority to proceed.
“Even after the interposition of judicial proceedings, the Extradition Act gives the Minister final authority to determine whether the person should be extradited or not,” Senator Lightbourne said.
In addition, she also denied that her eventual decision to sign the extradition order for Mr. Coke was based on directions from the Prime Minister, the Hon Bruce Golding.
“Having gauged the growing level of public mistrust and the expressed intention of key institutions/organisations not to interact with the government if the extradition matter remained unresolved, I decided that the looming public interest concerns compelled the exercise of my executive discretion to resolve the matter,” she explained.
“Consequently, I advised Cabinet that I would be signing the authority to proceed and did so on May 18, 2010. The Resident Magistrate for the Parish of St. Andrew then issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Christopher Coke,” she added.
Senator Falconer claimed that the extradition proceedings damaged Jamaica’s image abroad.
“The Jamaican brand has been severely damaged by a narco state designation and travel advisories from several friendly states. Jamaicans abroad and at home have been humiliated and their heads are bowed in shame,” Senator Falconer argued.
But, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte, said that there has been no scorn for Jamaica abroad in the international scene.
“I have travelled abroad dealing with issues of state and I have seen no scorn, no condemnation for the people of Jamaica on the basis of which it is alleged that the Honourable Minister has handled the extradition request,” Senator Malahoo Forte said.
Her Government colleague, Senator Hyacinth Bennett, suggested that the motion had “no merit”.
“The Minister showed exemplary faithfulness to the sacred principles of the rule of law and to due process, which are fundamental principles on which our modern civilisation and the architecture of our legal system are built,” Senator Bennett said.
Mr. Coke waived his right for an extradition trial in Jamaica, after being caught in a security dragnet on June 22, and was extradited to the United States where he is facing allegations of drug and gun running.