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EDITORIAL - Heed PSOJ's advice

Published:Friday | March 12, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the umbrella group for businesses in the island, is not given to precipitous or alarmist interventions on national issues.

Indeed, like the organisation's current leader, Joseph M. Matalon, the PSOJ's statements tend to be measured, thoughtful and cogent - as is the case with the one it issued on Wednesday on the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition issue.

As this newspaper had previously advised, and others have since championed, the PSOJ has told the Golding administration that the best forum for resolving the legal issues surrounding the United States' (US) extradition request in a transparent manner is the Jamaican courts.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Bruce Golding and the Government do not, up to now, agree - an attitude that, as the PSOJ clearly understands, poses grave dangers for the social and economic health of Jamaica.

Transnational crime boss

Mr Coke, should anyone not be aware, is a man whom the Americans hold out to be a Jamaica-based transnational crime boss. He is accused of smuggling cocaine from Jamaica to the US and importing guns into Jamaica. There are suggestions that he is involved in racketeering and extortion here.

Christopher Coke, who his supporters say is a legitimate businessman, has his base in Tivoli Gardens, the heart of the West Kingston constituency represented by Mr Golding, and before him, his predecessor as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, Edward Seaga.

It is conventional wisdom that Mr Coke is closely connected to the JLP, which the Americans clearly believe is the reason why Mr Golding's government has, in the perception of most people, dragged its feet on processing the extradition request it received more than half a year ago.

Last week in Parliament, in the face of a stinging America review and rebuke of Jamaica's attitude, Prime Minister Golding argued that the evidence offered by Washington in support of the extradition request was based on illegal wiretaps, which would not be admissible in a Jamaican court. Should his justice minister sign an extradition order on that basis, she would also have to sign her resignation letter.

Constitutional rights

Most people are unlikely to believe that this, in the face of the administration's shifting goalposts, is a matter of principle for Mr Golding rather than political expediency. But we are willing to give Mr Golding the benefit of the doubt and commend to him the PSOJ's observation that "there are sufficient safeguards in Jamaican law and in our independent judiciary to protect the constitutional rights of all Jamaican citizens".

Recognising the political challenge Mr Golding may face with his JLP base over this matter, this newspaper, a week ago, offered him a possible judicial way out, which we now repeat.

It is possible, we feel, without Mr Coke's extradition being directly the subject of the matter, for the Government to seek a declaration from the full court on whether "evidence" gathered in the manner claimed by Mr Golding would make the extradition process fatally flawed and, in effect, ultra vires of the US/Jamaica extradition treaty. Courts are often asked to rule on such fundamental jurisprudential principles and the interplay between domestic law and international treaty obligations.

The prime minister must know that what is at stake here is not only the personal political price he is willing to pay, but Jamaica's future - and with that he should not gamble.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.