Government continues to deny Manatt deal
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
Under increasing pressure from the Parliamentary Opposition and civil society for more information on the Manatt, Phelps and Phillips saga, the government has gone on the offensive while repeating its claim that it has no dealing with the law firm.
"I want to categorically state and challenge anybody to bring forward any documentation to support the claim that the Jamaican Government entered into any contract, with any party, outside of the Attorney General who is our legal advisor," declared information minister Daryl Vaz yesterday.
"There is speculation, but this can't be on anything else other than the fact that the government entered into a contract," declared Vaz.
He said documents from attorney-at-law Harold Brady, clarifying the matter, were submitted to the Solicitor General on Monday and he expected that a statement would be coming shortly.
Vaz was responding to the People's National Party (PNP) which on Wednesday raised questions of a grand cover-up, or a dereliction of duty on the part of the administration.
Brady also came under fire from the Opposition which stopped short of calling for criminal sanctions against him if he had misrepresented the Jamaican Government in the Manatt, Phelps and Phillips affair.
Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller said it would be a matter for the courts if Brady had signed an agreement purporting to represent the government when he was not.
"It would be a criminal matter," Simpson Miller insisted, while speaking at a press conference at PNP headquarters in St Andrew.
The Golding administration last week distanced itself from any contractual arrangement with the US law firm, through local attorney Brady.
However, the prime minister later admitted that Solicitor General Douglas Leys was approached by Brady who introduced the firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to him, suggesting that it could provide assistance in treaty issues.
But Brady stated that his law firm established a relationship with Manatt, Phelps and Phillips in the area of international trade and finance, specialising in telecommunications and intellectual property.
Pointing to what he said were conflicting statements, chairman of the communications commission of the PNP, Dr Peter Phillips charged: "The prime minister and Mr Brady cannot be right."
The firm was reportedly contracted to lobby the United States government on treaty issues. A sum of US$100,000 (approx. J$9 million) was to be paid per quarter for its services.
To date, the contract posted on the US Justice Department's website still lists Manatt, Phelps and Phillips as representing the Jamaican Government in treaty matters.
Dr Phillips argued that "there has been more than an appearance of public deception" by the Government.
"There is something unsavoury and improper about the government in this whole affair."
He insisted that unless the questions raised by the Opposition were cleared up, the "inescapable inference, at minimum, is that somebody lent the name and the imprimatur of the Government of Jamaica to a private individual or individuals, who were representing the interest of a person who was the subject of an extradition request".
Dr Phillips told journalists that the Opposition would not let up in its determination to get clear answers from Government.
He said the matter would be taken to Parliament if no response was made by the administration.
"We shall be putting these and more questions in Parliament," he said.
1. On what basis did the Solicitor General believe it was appropriate for private foreign citizens, in the persons of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, to attend a meeting between the Government of Jamaica and the Government of the United States involving highly sensitive and confidential issues?
Especially when, according to the Prime Minister, they were not engaged by the Government of Jamaica.
Would this not constitute an ethical breach?
2. Was the ambassador of Jamaica to the United States in Washington present at any of the meetings held between the Solicitor General and the US government authorities at which private foreign citizens from Manatt, Phelps and Phillips were also present?
3. Was the Jamaican ambassador to the US in Washington aware that Manatt, Phelps and Phillips were stating that they represent the Government of Jamaica and did he report this to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or any one else in the Government of Jamaica?
4. Did representatives of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips meet with officials of the Government of Jamaica other than the Solicitor General? If so, with whom, when and where?
5. What steps has the Government of Jamaica taken to clear the record with the US Justice Department to indicate that Manatt, Phelps and Phillips is not a representative of the Government of Jamaica?
6. Who paid the US$49,892.62 that Manatt, Phelps and Phillips reports to have paid for services rendered?
Was it the Government of Jamaica?
Was it Mr Brady?
Was it Mr Brady on behalf of his client?
If so, who is his client?
7. Did Mr Brady have any discussions with any officials of the Cabinet and Government of Jamaica other than the Solicitor General prior to signing the contract with Manatt, Phelps and Phillips?
8. Was the Solicitor General on a frolic of his own when he invited Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to attend the meeting between the Government of Jamaica and the US Government?