PM maintains Manatt's engagement was necessary
PRIME Minister Bruce Golding said yesterday that he had good reasons for engaging the services of the United States law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, while admitting that his comment that Jamaica was being "stonewalled" in the early stages of the extradition request was "strong".
Golding had said in response to a reporter's question in September of last year that Jamaica was being stonewalled by US officials at the embassy in Kingston during talks over the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition request, which resulted in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) engaging Manatt's services.
But while being cross-examined by Queen's Counsel KD Knight (representing the People's National Party) during yesterday's sitting of the Dudus/Manatt Commission of Enquiry, Golding agreed the word was strong.
However, the prime minister said that he had formed the view between August 25, 2009 — when the extradition request came — and the first week of September that the United States would have had taken an inflexible position on the issue and wanted to foster a higher level of discussions in Washington on the issue. As a result, he said he accepted the proposal from attorney Harold Brady to seek outside assistance on September 6, 2009.
Golding's statement that he "thought" that the US would take a "hard, inflexible and tough position" on the issue was seized upon by Knight.
"So you thought that this would be the approach of the US?" Knight asked. "You thought that they would behave in this way so you were taking preventive action?"
"That was my assessment. Yes," the prime minister responded.
Referring to the stonewall comment, Knight asked: "When you said you were being stonewalled were you speaking there using anticipatory language, or were you speaking in a present continuous?"
"I was speaking in the present (continuous), but with a clear indication of what was to come," responded Golding.
Golding said that it was his view, based on "one and two" telephone calls on the issue among Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Ken Baugh, and charge d'affaires at the US Embassy in Kingston, Isiah Parnell, that the discussions were heading "nowhere".
According to Golding, Lightbourne was being harassed by Parnell to sign the authority to proceed with the extradition process against Coke, an ardent JLP supporter and former don of the Tivoli Gardens community in Golding's West Kingston constituency.
When grilled on why he did not tell the public all he knew from the outset on the Coke extradition saga, Golding said he had given the facts as they came to him and which were germane to the issue. Asked why he did not tell Parliament that it was he who sent Dr Ronald Robinson abroad to meet with Manatt, the prime minister said it was a party matter.
He said the public was "misguided" in concluding that he had misled Parliament and "deceived" the country with his pronouncements on the extradition saga, which threatened to topple his government.
Meanwhile, a log book that had been reported missing from the justice ministry last September has been found. The book showed that it was Jeremy Taylor who had collected the authenticated extradition documents and not a police officer.