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EDITORIAL - What will Ms Lightbourne ask the court?

Published:Monday | April 5, 2010 | 4:00 AM

Prime Minister Bruce Golding may have made a marginal step towards repairing Jamaica's credibility over his Government's handling of America's request for the extradition of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. But the prime minister must know that there is much detritus to be removed and clarification provided before he can redeem his image in this issue.

Most immediately, Mr Golding must be pellucid about the declaration his justice minister, Ms Dorothy Lightbourne, has been asked to seek from the court with regard to her powers under Jamaica's extradition laws and the extradition treaty between Jamaica and the United States.

The Americans want to extradite Mr Coke for alleged smuggling of cocaine into their country and running guns from the United States to Jamaica. Our Government has up to now said "no", having, it appears, settled on a claim that the extradition request was defective because wire-tap evidence used by the US to support their claim was illegally acquired and would, therefore, be inadmissible in a Jamaican court.

Unauthorised information

It has emerged that a judge duly authorised the tapping of Mr Coke's phone. So the Government hinges its argument on the fact that a police constable who passed the information to the Americans was not authorised to do so.

The Government is not going to court about the admissibility of this evidence, which is now its key argument for not surrendering Mr Coke, but about the powers of the justice minister in extradition matters. It is urgent that the administration provides further and better particulars.

The concern of most rational people, the prime minister must be told, is that the question to the court is not so narrowly and artfully constructed that the determination is whether Ms Lightbourne has the power not to sign an extradition order. That power clearly resides with the minister and to ask the court that question would be to draw a red herring across the trail.

Mr Coke is a reputed 'don' with his base in Tivoli Gardens, the heart of Prime Minister Golding's West Kingston constituency and an area of the kind referred to in Jamaica as garrison. It is often held out as the street command centre of Mr Golding's Jamaica Labour Party.

Garrisons, Jamaica style, are zones of political exclusions, where the support of one or the other of main political parties is uniform and backing of the opponent not abided. When politicians had unfettered control of resources, garrison enforcers were beholden to them. But Jamaica's emergence as a major transshipment port for narcotics, and the deepening of the extortion racket, have shifted the locus of power.

The enforcers, with their own resources and as benefactors to their communities, maintain political allegiances but are not necessarily beholden to politicians.

Mr Coke's supporters say he is not of the kind described, but a legitimate businessman. The Americans insist otherwise.

As Mr Golding continues to tiptoe around the Coke affair, there remain questions about Jamaica's relationship with Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, the US legal/lobby which told the US Department of Justice that it was contracted to do work on 'treaty matters' for Jamaica, through Harold Brady's law firm. The Government denied any such arrangement although it admits that its solicitor general, Mr Douglas Leys, did meet with Manatt's officials and that they were invited to a meeting he had at the US State Department on the Coke matter.

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