Prime Minister, Hon Bruce Golding, returned to the witness chair at the enquiry into the Christopher Coke extradition on Wednesday March 23, to answer more questions from his attorney, Hugh Small.
Among the issues Mr. Golding dealt with was his statement made in 2010 that, "constitutional rights do not begin in Liguanea".
Mr. Golding explained that the comment was not made in reference to the United States embassy, which is located in Liguanea. He said it was an attempt to demonstrate that people of both the Jamaican upper and lower classes, should be guaranteed the same constitutional rights.
“There is a view that carries a fair amount of sway in our society, that when you’re dealing with persons who are reputed to be criminal wrongdoers that issues of constitutional rights are flexible and indispensible. And, what I was seeking to convey in that statement, was that concern about constitutional rights must not only apply to uptown people, they apply to downtown people, as well,” Mr. Golding explained.
The Prime Minister was also questioned on his knowledge of the involvement of the United States law firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips (MPP), in the extradition issue. He told the Commission that he had become aware of their involvement in December 2009, following a briefing at Jamaica House by members of a team, on their return from Washington D.C.
He said he was informed by Solicitor General, Douglas Leys, that he had been introduced to representatives of the law firm by attorney Harold Brady.
“I subsequently learned from Mr. Brady, that a representative of (MPP) attended the meeting at the State Department. I got the impression from Mr. Brady, at the time, that their attendance at the meeting had to do with the mandate, or purpose for which they had been engaged by the Jamaica Labour Party,” he explained.
“Indeed he told me that the representative who attended the meeting, Mr. DeGregory, is a former employee of the Department of Justice. I think he was a former deputy assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department, and it was through his own effort that he happened to be present at the meeting, but took no part,” the Prime Minister added.
Mr. Golding also explained to the Commission that his statements last year that the government was being “stonewalled”, and that there was a “stalemate” between the Governments of the United States and Jamaica regarding the extradition of Mr. Coke, was based on his own perception of the matter after the reaction from representatives of the U.S. Embassy.
“If it is argued that at the time when I took the decision to authorise Mr. Brady to engage the services of Manatt, (if) it is argued that that time was premature because there was no stalemate and there was no stonewalling, my response to that, Mr. Chairman, is that my own perception at that time, my own perceptiveness, was that we were not going to get anywhere in this matter. You don’t have to wait until you crash into a wall, to know that there is a road block,” he said.
He testified that, based on the information reported to him, it was clear that the United States Government was not only being insistent that the authorization to proceed must be signed speedily, but they were also telling the Government of Jamaica what their decision on the matter should be.
“I got a sense that we were spitting in the wind, and that those discussions had nowhere to go,” he said.
“In addition to that I used other means that were available to me, communicating within the local diplomatic community, to try to make a determination as to how far would these discussions go. The response that I got, was that we could talk until the cows come home, we were not going to get any serious consideration of the issues that we had raised,” he testified.
Mr. Golding is expected to return to the Commission on Thursday March 23 to be cross-examined.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter