TIVOLI REPORT: No evidence Golding government tipped off Coke
Livern Barrett, Senior Gleaner Writer
The west Kingston commission has cleared the former Bruce Golding administration of having any direct communication with drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke during the period it squabbled with United States authorities over the extradition of the reputed ‘Shower Posse’ leader.
Retired army chief Major General Stewart Saunders triggered speculation that Coke was tipped off about the extradition request when he testified of a meeting with Golding and then National Security Minister Dwight Nelson at Jamaica House.
Saunders, in his testimony before the three-member tribunal, said minutes after he informed Golding and Nelson of the request, military intelligence personnel reported to him that Coke had fled his Upper St Andrew home for his Tivoli Gardens strong hold.
However, in its 900-page report made public today, the commission, chaired by former Barbados Chief Justice Sir David Simmons, said “we find that there was no direct communication during the period 24 August 2009 and May 2010 between Christopher Coke and any official of the Government of Jamaica.”
“The evidence of Coke being ‘tipped off’ on 24 August 2009 after the heads of the security forces informed the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security of an imminent request for Coke’s extradition is not of a quality that could lead us to make any finding of communication between Coke and any official of the GOJ,” the report said.
Chairman of the Peace Management Initiative at the time Bishop Herro Blair testified before the commission that he twice met with Coke in May 2010 inside Tivoli Gardens as part of an attempt by the Golding administration to diffuse mounting tensions in west Kingston.
The tribunal found no issue with this, saying it was appropriate that Blair consult Golding as head of the government and defence minister of his interest in having dialogue with Coke “with a view to persuade him to surrender.”
Over 74 civilians and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force were killed in subsequent operations by the police and members of the military to apprehend Coke on an extradition warrant.