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EDITORIAL - Mr Leys should recuse himself

Published:Thursday | March 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM

This newspaper has the utmost respect for the intellectual and legal acumen of Mr Douglas Leys. Nothing here should be construed as questioning his integrity.

But we recommend that in the issue surrounding the American legal/lobby firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips that Mr Leys, the solicitor general, should recuse himself. Indeed, it might be sensible that matters related to the controversy be handled outside the solicitor general's chambers.

In that regard, the Government should retrieve documents which Information Minister Daryl Vaz said were forwarded to the solicitor general in proof of Mr Harold Brady's purported correction of a claim that he was an agent of the Jamaican government when he signed an agreement with the United States (US) lobbyists.

When this apparent relationship between the Government and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips was raised by the Opposition more than a week ago, the suggestion was summarily rejected by Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

Contract

It was, however, a fact that Mr Brady, a lawyer who has been a parliamentary candidate for Mr Golding's party, did sign an agreement with the US firm, in which he purported to be a 'consultant' to the Jamaican government. Mr Brady said that this categorisation of himself was soon corrected. Filings to this effect by Manatt, Phelps & Phillips are yet to appear on the website of the US Justice Department.

In the contract signed last October, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips undertook, they appeared to believe, to represent Jamaica on political and economic matters as well as issues relating to "existing treaties" between Kingston and Washington. This fuelled speculation that the agreement rested on the current stand-off between Jamaica and US over our government's refusal, so far, to extradite Mr Christopher Coke, who the Americans want to put on trial for drug trafficking and gunrunning charges.

There, indeed, seems to be a nexus. For Mr Golding had cause to admit that Mr Brady had raised with Mr Leys - when both men just happened to meet on a flight - the possibility of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips acting on behalf of Jamaica. Mr Leys just happened to have been travelling to the US for meetings with the US authorities, apparently on the Coke affair.

Discussions

Mr Leys, the prime minister reported, met officials of the lobby firm, but turned down its overtures to represent Jamaica. Surprisingly, however, according to the prime minister, Mr Leys did allow an official of this US firm to accompany him to a meeting with US government officials. Reportedly, the Manatt official did not participate in the discussions.

On the face of it, Mr Leys, as we have said before, was guilty of poor judgement - unless he can claim to have received instructions/clearance from his political superiors to invite an official of a private firm, canvassing for Jamaica's business, to a meeting between agents of two sovereign states discussing official, and supposedly private, matters.

Indeed, it is important that the administration answer, with dispatch, the questions posed by the political Opposition with regard to the whole conduct of this affair. Mr Brady must demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that there was a genuine mistake in Manatt's filing with the US authorities that was corrected with good speed.

There is something malodorous rising from this affair that can only be sanitised by all the facts and the whole truth.

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.