EDITORIAL - This is not Somalia, we hope
Published: Sunday | September 6, 2009
Mr Coke is, of course, the West Kingston-based businessman and 'community leader' who the United States wants to extradite, allegedly for conspiring to import narcotics into America and exporting guns from there to Jamaica.
The prime minister (PM) has said the Government has requested more information, but it is imperative that the Jamaican public have the assurance that this is in keeping with due process, precedents and procedures followed in relation to other extradition requests. Otherwise, the public will be left to conclude that the Government is dithering in the instant case.
This newspaper, as we have stressed before, offers no opinion on Mr Coke's guilt or innocence, but speaks to a larger issue. We believe in constitutional order, the rule of law, and hold that Jamaica must respect its international treaty obligations.
The Government's handling of the Coke matter raises serious and relevant questions about its commitment to these principles, and whether Mr Golding has it within him to be the leader he threatened to become a decade and a half ago when he posited himself as new and different and declared himself in favour of moral governance. Which is not to misapprehend the dilemma on whose prongs Mr Golding feels himself to stand, but rather, to reassure him that the greater stand is for principle.
The PM's and his party's concern, of course, is that West Kingston is the political constituency represented by him, having inherited it - as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party - from his predecessor, Edward Seaga. West Kingston, broadly, and Tivoli Gardens in particular, are considered to be political garrisons, those zones of political exclusion from which opposing political parties, and views, are essentially barred.
In these communities, where the politician once held sway, the order has shifted in favour of the 'don' who, now in independent command of resources - however acquired - has superseded the State as community benefactor. In the case of West Kingston/Tivoli Gardens, and many other communities across Kingston, Christopher Coke is 'the man'. The fear is that should Mr Coke be arrested, violence would erupt in West Kingston and elsewhere.
The Government and the JLP, with which Mr Coke has a residual relationship, would prefer he surrendered to the authorities and signalled to his supporters his willingness to go quietly. There are those, in the logic of territorial appeasement, who counsel that he be allowed to put a succession plan in place.
The former point we understand; the latter is nonsense, unless we accept Jamaica's place alongside Somalia. Jamaica is not at that place, and we expect the Government to do the right thing - before it is too late.
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