Thu | Jun 29, 2017

Garnett Roper | Al Miller the Dudus fall guy

Published:Sunday | August 14, 2016 | 8:00 AM
Garnett Roper
Al Miller is facing jail time after his conviction for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Christopher 'Dudus' Coke
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I have known the Reverend Al Miller for the better part of 40 years. I am distressed, but not entirely surprised by the findings of guilt by the learned magistrate, Simone Wolfe Reece. I was, I suppose, just as stunned by the response to the verdict by the congregation that Rev Miller leads. To put their response in my words, it is that the justice of God ought to overturn the verdict and findings of the court.

Two things strike me about this entire set of sequence of events, beginning with the extradition request for Christopher 'Dudus' Coke to stand trial in the US on drug and racketeering charges, and ending with the guilty verdict for Al Miller.

The first is what Alexander Brett, who has delivered the TED Talk on the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, has observed. In that TED Talk, Brett observed that "we live in a post-factual world where evidence and truth no longer matter and lies have equal status as the clarity of evidence". In the world where truth and evidence matter and where lies do not have equal status as the clarity of evidence, the findings on a matter in a court of law is the truth. The court is the standard of truth in assessing evidence.

If that matter is appealed at higher court, it is hardly ever the evidence that forms the basis for appeal; it is a point of law. It is clear that we no longer live in that world where the findings of the court are the final assessment of the facts in a matter. The response by my colleague and his congregation, stated in the way it is represented by the newspapers, is a symptom of a deeper problem, not just for our society but for the entire postmodern and globalised world.

The second thing that strikes me is that only two persons have received an adverse finding from the court of law and only one from a Jamaican court of law in all of this debacle that began in August 2009. The one is Christopher Coke, who has pleaded guilty to a charge of racketeering in a Manhattan court in New York and has been duly sentenced.

Al Miller has been found guilty in the St Andrew Parish Court and is awaiting sentencing. There must be something wrong with that. There must be something wrong with our incapacity to hold more wrongdoers accountable, and with a society where the court of law works in the breach.

We have spent some $300 million on a commission of enquiry that went out of its way to exonerate members of the political class for their role in those matters. In fact, the only people that the Tivoli commissioners were prepared to blame for the entire episode were the security forces. The commissioners were particularly savage in their findings on the members of the JCF.

 

OFFICER SINGLED OUT

 

In fact, there is one particular officer who, if the commissioners had their way, would have his career ended and play no further role in policing. Their beef with that officer is that he failed to proofread the statement he gave to the commission before signing it.

The commissioners attributed no personal culpability to anyone but the police - even though the members of the JCF entered the zone of conflict only after a substantial number of persons who were killed were already dead (read the post-mortem reports). They did not blame the JDF for failing to tell the commission where Dudus had been staying before the Reverend Miller went and fetched him. There is every indication that the fugitive had been staying in a Government Protocol House in St Ann in which deposed Haitian President Bertram Aristide was ensconced for a while when in exile in Jamaica. The commissioners showed no real interest in subpoenaing the JDF for that matter. The findings in that matter would have taken us in a direction that would have made it impossible to avoid the members of the political class who had custody and charge of that house escaping blame.

The lives of 69 civilians and one soldier were lost in those affairs. This does not include lives lost in the build-up to the police-military confrontation. No one has been held criminally responsible for exacerbating the situation. No one in the Bruce Golding administration has been held accountable for abuse of power. No one for the bad governance and the eventual damage to Jamaica's good name, and no one for the strained relationship with the USA in order to protect a political henchman.

We do not have any mechanism to hold those responsible accountable for announcements that tipped off Coke so that Tivoli could be armed and barricaded and 300 gunmen recruited to declare war on the Jamaican State.

Al Miller's prominence as a go-between for the security forces and persons of interest rose immediately after ABC, the American TV network, indicated that a Jamaican politician was in cell phone contact with the criminal subject, Dudus. Later, Al Miller was publicly announced as the go-between and facilitator of the Coke family. There are best practices that ministers of religion in those situations use, none of which was followed by Rev Miller. In fact, his approach was at best naive and at worst, as the learned magistrate has said, facilitatory of the wishes of Dudus.

Fellowship Tabernacle wants the justice, not the mercy, of God to overturn the verdict of the court. What the justice of God must do is not overturn the verdict; the verdict is true and right. What it must do is help us hold accountable those who gave Al Miller the bank of cell phone numbers and put the powerful Tivoli interests in touch with him, so that he, Al Miller, rather than they, could facilitate the wishes of Christopher Coke.

It was in order to facilitate the wishes of Christopher Coke (expressed or otherwise) that led to the nine-month delay in signing the extradition warrant. It was to facilitate the wishes of Christopher Dudus Coke that led to the engagement of the US lobby law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. It was to facilitate the wishes of Dudus that led those responsible to make the announcement public that the warrant had been signed, before the security forces had been advised. It was to facilitate the wishes of Christopher Coke that led eventually to the loss of 70 precious Jamaican lives in the zone of conflict.

Al Miller has taken the fall for a Jamaican political class and system of justice that knows only to prosecute one section of its population. It is one thing to be a fall guy and somebody's stool pigeon; it is a worse thing not to know that that is all you are.

- The Rev Dr Garnett Roper is president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glroper@hotmail.com.