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EDITORIAL - Where is the 'Dudus' Coke case?

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Fifteen years ago when Bruce Golding began aggressively to seek the job of prime minister of Jamaica, he didn't merely lodge his application. He also wrote his own job description, accompanied by a business plan for the overhaul of the country.

The core of Mr Golding's proposal was the reform of politics and to run a government that was moral. Critical to this restructuring would be, in the language of the period, the dismantling of political garrisons. Mr Golding would not cavort, directly or otherwise, with the enforcers of these zones of political exclusions, that have morphed fertile territory of violence, extortion and other forms of criminality.

No big deal

In the context of a functioning liberal democracy this would have been no big deal, but by the standards of Jamaica's often dysfunctional political arrangements, Mr Golding would have been aware that he was setting a high bar for himself. But he was willing, Mr Golding assured Jamaicans, to pay, if necessary, a political price for having a serious go at this transformation.

People, however, are not so sure. The one real test of Mr Golding's resolve to change the nature of politics in Jamaica and to lead the retreat from garrisons is causing many people to question his will, if not his sincerity.

It is nearly half a year since the US government requested the extradition of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, ostensibly a businessman, but who the Americans accuse of smuggling narcotics into their country and running guns from the United States to Jamaica.

Declined to sign

Mr Golding's justice minister, Ms Dorothy Lightbourne, has so far declined to sign the extradition order so that the Jamaican courts can determine whether the Americans have established a
prime facie
case against Mr Coke. The Jamaican government has asked the Americans for more and better particulars about the indictment. The government insists that it is protecting the constitutional rights of a Jamaican citizen.

The problem for the administration is that neither the United States nor a large swathe of the Jamaican population believes that. They see in our government's action dithering and waffle.

Mr Coke happens to be based in West Kingston, Mr Golding's parliamentary constituency, whose political epicentre is Tivoli Gardens, which is considered by many as a kind of command and control centre of the governing Jamaica Labour Party. Mr Coke, as benefactor, is considered to be a man of great power and influence in West Kingston and elsewhere, which he 'inherited' from his father, Lester Coke, or Jim Brown, who the Americans also tried to extradite. It is presumed that Mr Coke's actions can influence the political fortunes of the JLP and that to touch him might ignite a volatile security powder keg.

However, the Americans have made it apparent that despite the Government's clunking dance, they still want Mr Coke, as was made clear by Julissa Reynoso, deputy assistant secretary of state, when she visited Jamaica last month and met with Foreign Minister Ken Baugh.

We would not be surprised if the Americans begin to ratchet up political pressure on Jamaica, starting with government agencies that are presumed to do business with Mr Coke or his associates. Our advice to Mr Golding is to allow the legal system to take its course. The present state of affairs is embarrassing.

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