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Golding praises enquiry report despite criticisms

Published:Wednesday | June 22, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Golding

The man who served as prime minister during the May 2010 operations in west Kingston has given his approval to the report of the tribunal that investigated the conduct of the incursion.

Bruce Golding described the report of the commission of enquiry as "very good" and "very balanced", despite criticisms of some of his actions in the days leading up to the operations.

"I've read it. I think it's a very good report and I think the recommendations are sound," Golding told The Gleaner yesterday, while declining to comment in detail on the more than 900-page report.

The former prime minister and West Kingston member of parliament triggered a diplomatic stand-off with the United States (US) when his administration refused, for nine months, to issue the authority to proceed with an extradition request for drug lord Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

Coke was wanted in the US on drug and firearm charges, but the Government at the time indicated that the manner in which American authorities collected evidence against the former Tivoli Gardens enforcer and processed the request for his extradition offended Jamaican law.

But with mounting pressure from local and international partners, Golding used a national broadcast on May 17, 2010 to announce that then Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne would sign the authority to proceed with Coke's extradition.

Retired army chief, Major General Stewart Saunders, and former Police Commissioner Owen Ellington testified before the commission of enquiry that they learnt of the Government's decision to green-light Coke's extradition through media reports.

 

IRRESPONSIBLE MOVE

 

In its report that was made public last week, the commission - chaired by former Barbados chief justice, Sir David Simmons - expressed the view that it was "imprudent on his [Golding] part not to have alerted the heads of the security forces of his intended announcement prior to doing so.

"They ought not to have learnt of the attorney general's intention via the press," the commissioners insisted.

They also indicated that they were "satisfied" that Golding's announcement "had the effect of giving impetus to the preparations of some residents in their desire to create a fortress of Tivoli Gardens.

"The evidence is unchallenged and undeniable that fortification was accelerated after the announcement," the commissioners noted.

While declining to make any adverse findings against Golding, the commission expressed the view that he "should have foreseen the probability of violent confrontations" given his familiarity with the constituency, the history of violent clashes between residents of Tivoli Gardens and members of the security forces and his knowledge of the disquiet that had been festering since the request for Coke's extradition was received in August 2009.

"We make no adverse findings against Mr Golding with regard to this matter since he readily acknowledged that there may have been merit in opinions that his announcement deprived the security forces of the element of surprise," the commission wrote.

Despite the criticisms, the former prime minister and minister of defence was full of praise for the commissioners.

"I respect the commission. I think that they have been very perceptive, very balanced and I think that they have produced a good report," he said.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com