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EDITORIAL - Jamaica risks being branded a rogue state

Published:Wednesday | March 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Perchance Prime Minister Golding missed, underestimated or rejected the arguments of many in the society, recent events should, by now, have concentrated his mind on the potential dangers of his Government's inexplicable dithering over the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke affair.

Jamaica, Mr Golding must be aware, is skirting closely to being branded by the United States as an institutionally corrupt country and galloping towards being a failed state.

The prime minister in Parliament yesterday indicated that the US has still not yet provided certain information to satisfy Jamaica to sign the extradition order for Coke. He has also rejected some of the arguments relating to the case in America's latest report on its relations with other countries, in the fight against narcotics smuggling and money laundering.

But we offer to the Government and Jamaica generally this statement by the State Department about our country:

"Indeed, Jamaica's delay in processing the US extradition request for a major suspected drug and firearms trafficker with reputed ties to the ruling party highlights the potential depth of corruption in the Government." The Americans are providing no insulation for the political executive.

The administration may claim that this broad sweep by the United States represents peeve on the part of Washington for its failure to get its way in the extradition of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, the reputed 'don' of West Kingston. In that sense, the attempt will be to sell this report as an attack on Jamaica's sovereignty.

Such an appeal to nationalist sentiment and jingoism, however, is not likely to hold. For the majority of Jamaicans, we believe, are not only embarrassed at how the Government has managed the Dudus Coke affair, but perceive it as a betrayal of the reform agenda that formed the basis of Mr Golding's ascension to office.

He promised to be new and different, to break the nexus between criminality and politics in Jamaica and dismantle those zones of political exclusion, which are branded here as garrison communities. Questions were raised when Mr Golding chose West Kingston, home of the JLP's perceived street 'command centre', as his parliamentary constituency.

Wiggled and obfuscated

We, however, preferred to judge the PM on specific actions, like his response to America's request for the extradition of Coke. The Government has wiggled and obfuscated, asking for more and better particulars from Washington rather than allowing the domestic courts to rule on whether the Americans have made a
prima facie
case against Coke.

In the circumstances, it is not an unreasonable assumption that narrowly partisan matters, thinly sheathed in security concerns, are being allowed to trump the law, international obligations and the moral politics promised by Mr Golding. There is no obviously fundamental principle at stake here.

Jamaica has much at stake in this matter, starting with its global reputation, which is important that we see to repair. But there are other practical issues for Jamaica, a poor country that for no great moral reason, has pitted itself against the world's most powerful nation. The consequence today may be the visas of influential officials, although Prime Minister Golding said the issue relating to a local businessman had nothing to do with the Dudus affair. The consequence tomorrow may be negative effects on economic agreements.

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