Golding defends holding back on info
During his third day of testimony at the Manatt-Dudus commission of enquiry yesterday, Prime Minister Bruce Golding stoutly defended his decision to withhold information from the House of Representatives about the source of travelling expenses for former State Minister Ronald Robinson.
The prime minister wrestled fiercely with Senator K.D. Knight, the attorney representing the People's National Party, during the post-lunch session of the Manatt-Dudus commission of enquiry, over his decision to withhold information from the Parliament that Robinson's expenses were borne by the Jamaica Labour Party.
Golding insisted that he did not know which two JLP supporters provided the fees to engage the services of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.
"I did not know and I did not ask," he declared.
The prime minister said he instructed Robinson to accompany Brady, a reputable attorney with long-standing connections with the JLP, to Washington in November 2009.
"That is why I am perplexed that after having acknowledged that he was sent by me, he said in testimony here that Brady encouraged him to come along … ," Golding said.
Knight: "Prime minister, let me suggest to you that there has been a practice of keeping information from the public. Information in relation to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips' engagement by the JLP."
Golding: "I think it is an absurd suggestion."
The prime minister, who is also leader of the JLP, said he considered the mission to be sensitive at the time as it could not be explained by way of press release.
"And that is not unusual," he argued.
Golding also claimed it was not necessarily in the public interest that the source of funding (for Robinson's travel) was divulged.
"Whatever activities are divulged is a decision that the parties, including the People's National Party, have to make."
Knight highlighted apparent contradictions between the prime minister's claim that Robinson did not finance his travel and a statement made in the House of Representatives by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Kenneth Baugh.
Golding told the commission Baugh did not initially know who had paid for the trip.
"Your deputy prime minister gave the wrong response and you sat there and said nothing?" declared Knight.
"I was not answering questions (in Parliament), Mr Knight," Golding responded. "Who paid the money was immaterial."
According to Golding, Baugh was responding to a specific question, which was posed by a member of the Opposition. "The question was who approved his (Robinson) travel," said Golding.
"It had nothing to do with his official business as minister of state," said Golding.