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'Dudus' matter hurting Jamaica, says Dudley Thompson

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, April 19, 2010    

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FORMER national security minister Dudley Thompson believes that the ongoing impasse between Jamaica and the United States over the extradition of Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke is hurting this north Caribbean island badly, internationally.

Ambassador Thompson, who served as Jamaica's envoy to several African countries, including Nigeria, Namibia and Ghana, said that Prime Minister Bruce Golding had his back against the wall in not acting fast enough in the 'Dudus' affair, adding that further delays in settling the matter could have far-reaching effects.

"It is harming Jamaica's image internationally in a huge way," the 93-year-old retired politician, lawyer and diplomat told the Observer during an interview in Kingston.

"We can't imagine up to now the harm that is being done. I do not think that when it started out that anybody on either side thought that it would have stretched out to such a very deep wound; Jamaica has been wounded," said Thompson, who is now based in Florida, United States.


Known as the 'Burning Spear' -- having successfully represented numerous local, regional and international figures in his time in the courtroom, among them the 1952 defence of Kenyan Jomo Kenyatta, who later became president of that African country -- Ambassador Thompson chided State officials for allowing the 'Dudus' extradition matter to drag on.

"I should not think that the damage is irreparable, but I do feel that a matter as sensitive as this, at a time like this, should have been handled much quicker, not delayed over such a long period of time.

"Every delay lays the onus upon us in Jamaica to state why we have to take more action. Again, it depends on whether or not you are working on the spirit of the (Extradition) Act, or the actual legal, day-by-day, word-by-word, letter-by-letter interpretation of the Act," he said.

"Such a matter should have had quicker and more transparent exhibition to the public. What I don't like is the 'you told me, I told him' position that exists today. A lot of finger-pointing is taking place. A change of attitude in this approach does seem to suggest that we didn't start from a very strong position. It gives me the impression that there are a lot of things still to be revealed and a lot of names are being covered up," said Thompson, who also expressed concerns about the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips issue.

"...What is the source of the money that was paid? (to the US-based law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips); who paid the cheque? Those are questions that should come out straightforward; it shouldn't take much time to say that," Thompson said.

The law firm said that the Jamaica Government contracted it to act on its behalf in regard to extradition matters, a claim that the Government has denied.

Thompson, in the meantime, remained fixed in his views that Tivoli Gardens -- the pro-Jamaica Labour Party community in West Kingston -- was like a kingdom unto itself.

"My political history has always felt that Tivoli Gardens is a fiefdom on its own. Tivoli Gardens, also from my own personal relationship, has always been a separate and different part of Jamaica.

"Golding being prime minister and representing that area should be able to come right out and clarify that situation. I doubt whether that is being done.

"He is under pressure, but he can always get out of trouble by telling the truth. The truth is the best prerogative in the world," said Thompson, a Rhodes Scholar produced by Mico (University) College, which honoured him last weekend.

Regarded as one of the toughest defence lawyers in the history of Jamaica's legal system, Thompson is also widely remembered in his stint as national security minister in the 1970s for his words, "No angels died at Green Bay", following the killing of five civilians by army rifles in St Catherine in 1978.

Ten men from the Jamaica Labour Party stronghold of Southside in Central Kingston went to the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) shooting range in the Port Henderson area, with the promise of jobs as bodyguards and drivers at the then princely wage of $300 a week, when five of them were shot dead and the other five escaped.

Four of the five had criminal records, including Norman "Gutto" Thompson, a former Santos Football Club and Jamaica representative.

Ten JDF soldiers, who were either charged with murder or conspiracy to murder, were freed in February 1982 by a jury in the Manchester Circuit Court. This came after a coroner's jury in 1978 found that persons conspired to kill the men, who were transported to the range in two Jamaica Red Cross ambulances.

JDF personnel testified at the trial that the men went to Green Bay to collect illegal guns and were killed by soldiers, after they fired at soldiers.

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