WHO’S TO BLAME FOR JAMAICA’S SHAME?

On July 9, Biography Channel aired a documentary on Christopher Coke’s extradition. Jamaica’s National Security Minister, Peter Bunting, appeared and said “The Attorney General’s Department was essentially at the service of Christopher Coke....he had had these nine months to prepare and essentially make Tivoli gardens into a bit of a fortress“.

Bunting has been widely vilified for this statement.  On July 11, RJR News reported the JLP demanded an apology and “The JLP is also claiming that Mr. Bunting has also exposed himself to legal consequences as there is no evidence to support his allegations.”  Sounding more like an Opposition satellite, a civil society group named Citizens for Principle and Integrity (CAPI), asserted that Bunting’s “statements had brought Jamaica shame and tainted the island’s image abroad..” 

Seriously? Peter Bunting has brought shame to Jamaica arising out of the Manatt/Coke fiasco?  Bunting should apologise?  Good grief!

Lest we forget:

May 13, 2010, THE AM LAW DAILY: “……Prime Minister Bruce Golding told his country’s parliament on Tuesday that he had approved retaining Manatt to help resolve the extradition standoff over Kingston businessman Christopher Coke……

Golding contended, however, that it was his ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), not the Jamaican government, that hired and paid Manatt despite the firm’s continuing insistence to the contrary.

‘I sanctioned the initiative…….’ Golding said…….. ‘I made it clear, however, that this was an initiative to be undertaken by the [JLP], not by or on behalf of the government.’”

So, you tell me.  Is it Peter Bunting or Bruce Golding who brought any shame to Jamaica?  Golding it was who accepted responsibility while asserting government wasn’t involved. 

But, lest we forget:

 

Manatt Commission, (February 8, 2011):    

“Solicitor General (SG) Douglas Leys testified today that he informed the Justice Minister and sought her permission for representatives of [Manatt, Phelps, Phillips] to sit in on a meeting with US officials in December 2009. 

Mr. Leys told the Commission that she gave him the go ahead.”

(Source: IRIE FM report; February 11, 2011)

Previously, the Attorney General had publicly stated she never heard of the name Manatt until Peter Phillips, an Opposition Spokesman, mentioned the subject in Parliament.  Yet, her subordinate, the SG, was fully integrated in the JLP’s plan to involve Manatt, Phelps and Phillips (MPP), without knowing, according to Leys, the details of their involvement.  Yet he invited MPP to a meeting with US Justice Department officials.

Lest we forget:

February 8, 2011:        “SG Douglas Leys today testified he had no regrets about inviting [MPP] to attend a meeting at the United States Justice department in relation to the extradition request for Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.

………Leys said inviting the law firm was ‘not improper’.

He also testified that the Manatt representative who attended the meeting was not representing the Jamaican government but was an observer.

……..He also said he had sought the approval of Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne, for Manatt to attend the meeting after he had taken the liberty of inviting them.

[Source; Jamaica Observer). 

Dorothy Lightbourne denied giving Leys any such permission.

But, regardless whether she gave express permission, the million dollar question remains: “Observer” for whom?  Only two parties had a right to be present.  For which one was MPP “observing”? If a third party was MPP’s client, surely the SG would insist on being told that client’s identity before even asking for permission to let MPP in the room?  Suppose it turned out that MPP was representing Coke?  Would the SG still ask for them to be allowed in?

One thing for certain, this wasn’t an audition for a government contract.  As the SG himself pointed out, there are set procurement procedures for that.  MPP was representing SOMEBODY.  Who?

Why would Jamaica’s SG, a member of the Attorney General’s department, invite to attend a meeting between two sovereign governments a private U.S Law Firm allegedly representing a private political party, whose Big Bad Don was in danger of extradition,?  Could it be that “The Attorney General’s Department was essentially at the service of Christopher Coke…”?

Lest we forget:

The solicitor general said he, on his return from Washington, briefed the prime minister that he met with representatives of [MPP] while there to discuss treaty issues as well as the extradition request for Coke. He also told the prime minister that Harold Brady had introduced him to [MPP]. Leys said Golding didn’t tell him that Brady was, on his instructions, in Washington to meet with Manatt to help the JLP negotiate with the US on the matter of the extradition.

Leys had earlier testified that he sought advice from Brady about the composition of the delegation to meet with MPP.”

(Source:  Gleaner February 11, 2011)

It’s worth repeating.  So WHO did Leys think MPP was representing?  Santa Claus? 

Why would Jamaica’s SG, a member of the Attorney-General’s department, seek advice about the composition of a government delegation from a private lawyer allegedly representing a political party whose Big Bad Don was in danger of extradition?  Could it be that “The Attorney General’s Department was essentially at the service of Christopher Coke…”?

Lest we forget:

“February 11, 2011:  …under cross-examination from attorney Patrick Atkinson, …..representing…….Dr Peter Phillips, Leys was grilled about a series of e-mails which involved communication among himself, his deputy Lackston Robinson, and [MPP] representatives Kevin Di Gregory and Susan Schmidt.

Leys said… the e-mails culminated in a conference call in which they discussed the drafting of a joint press release regarding a meeting held with the U.S. Department of Justice to discuss matters surrounding Coke’s extradition request…..

(Source:  Gleaner report on Manatt Commission hearings)

Why would Jamaica’s SG, a member of the Attorney-General’s department, actively correspond and co-operate about legal strategy and public relations with a private U.S. lawyer allegedly representing a political party whose Big Bad Don was in danger of extradition?  Could it be that “The Attorney general’s Department was essentially at the service of Christopher Coke…”?

From as far back as August 22, 2010, the Gleaner’s Arthur Hall had reported on the continuous correspondence between the SG and MPP.

……The Sunday Gleaner acquired copies of the emails, which span a seven-month period from September 2009 to March 2010.

In a statement to Parliament in April…, Prime Minister Golding said he had sanctioned the retention of [MPP] on condition that it was ‘undertaken by the party, not by or on behalf of the Government.’ However, not only was the SG, a senior government officer, giving instructions to the law firm, he was actioning instructions from its officials.

The emails also indicate the prime minister and the attorney general were updated at intervals on the discussions[my emphasis] and were apparently involved in the next-steps decisions as Government sought to lobby the US on the Coke issue.

‘We have to talk on Monday after we’ve had a chance to brief the PM and the Attorney-General….’ said Brady in an email to Manatt, ….copied to Leys.

That conference call was requested on December 23 by Susan Schmidt of [MPP] who indicated to Leys and the others that she’d like to talk about meetings and the next steps.

The emails also include directions from [MPP] for the solicitor general to write to a high-ranking member of the US Justice Department seeking clearance on a proposed press release……

The first email contact between Leys and Manatt came on September 19, less than one month after the Government received the extradition request...”

Why would Jamaica’s SG, a member of the Attorney-General’s department, commence this active correspondence and co-operation with a private law firm allegedly representing the JLP who seemed anxious to save its Big Bad Don from extradition less than a month after receipt of the extradition request?  Could it be that “The Attorney general’s Department was essentially at the service of Christopher Coke…”?

Finally, who can forget the critical evidence of The Attorney General’s secretary, Verna McGaw?

Lightbourne’s secretary Verna McGaw testified that Lightbourne instructed her to e-mail Harold Brady about the Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke extradition request.

McGaw testified before the commission……that Lightbourne had on September 16, 2009 given her a handwritten note to type and send to Leys and Brady. The e-mail had the subject line ‘extradition’ and outlines the extradition process and conversations that the minister had with Acting D.P.P. Lisa Palmer-Hamilton….and Jeremy Taylor also of the DPP’s office.

[Source: Gleaner; March 21, 2011)

Dorothy Lightbourne first seemed to accept responsibility for the e-mails but, after a lunch break, vehemently denied she’d sent them or instructed they be sent.  What cannot be contradicted is that they were sent from The Attorney-General’s Office.

Why are we vilifying Peter Bunting for deciding not to engage in any cover up or denial of the obvious?  Are we all about “image” at any cost?  Should he have tried to polish Jamaica’s tarnished image with easily exposed lies or provided fodder for stand-up comedians by attempting to obfuscate with political double-speak?  Or has he boosted Jamaica’s image by establishing himself as a political leader prepared to acknowledge truth regardless of consequences?  For too long, Jamaica has been led by persons preferring to sweep embarrassing truth under the carpet in preference to keeping the “image” intact.  But there comes a time when the truth is so exposed; so internationally recognised; so obvious, that only a lunatic or one prepared to be ridiculed as a fool would try to deny it.

This is the choice that faced Peter Bunting and I personally congratulate him for choosing truth over political mumbo jumbo.  No doubt it’ll be said that he mightn’t have been so frank had it been a PNP conundrum.  But it wasn’t.  And he was.

Lest we forget:

Early September 2009:  The SG and Harold Brady hold frequent discussions on the legal issues surrounding the extradition request.  Leys said this happened despite his ignorance of Brady’s client’s identity. 

September 18, 2009:  MPP is retained and US$49,892.62 paid to MPP.

September 19, 2009:  Jamaica’s SG sends a brief of the GOJ’s legal issues to MPP (Attention: Harold Brady).

Peter Bunting hasn’t brought any shame to Jamaica.  His statesmanlike facing of the truth has created a flicker of credibility in what has otherwise been a deep, dark pit of mendacity.

Peace and Love.

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One Response to “WHO’S TO BLAME FOR JAMAICA’S SHAME?”

  1. petchary Says:

    I was one of those who perhaps “vilified” Minister Bunting – but mainly because I felt he was seizing on the program to score political points, and relishing the opportunity to be the star of the show. I found it all very uncomfortable. I don’t think there was anything particularly statesmanlike about his appearance on the program. I agree though that our image is already tarnished – but there was no way he could have attempted a cover-up either. The information on the Tivoli massacre and the Manatt fiasco was already out there. Only a fool could deny it, as you say – so there is nothing to congratulate him on there. He could NOT deny it…

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