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EDITORIAL - Karl Samuda's disingenuous observation

Published:Monday | April 12, 2010 | 4:00 AM

It is the habit of Jamaican governments to view criticism and critique purely in personal terms and to impute narrowly partisan, political motives to those who do not agree with their policies and positions. The trait is increasingly obvious in the current lot.

Happily, Jamaica is not in a position where critics are carted off to jail to be tortured for their views. Up to now, while politicians may occasionally lead crowds to your gates with blustery warnings, the press remains relatively free and the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, though containing too many exceptions, are largely adhered to.

The foregoing, however, is not to suggest that there are not other forms of subtle pressure, if not outright intimidation, of presumed critics and troublemakers by government officials or their hounds.

We, of course, would never place in any of these categories, Karl Samuda, the investment and commerce minister in the Golding administration, who is also general secretary of the governing Jamaica Labour Party. Mr Samuda subscribes too much to the ideals of freedom of expression. He loves a good argument.

Express our concern

We must, however, express our concern over the senior minister's imputation against the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) and its leadership, which we choose to believe was an inadvertent slip on the part of Mr Samuda, rather than evidence of mal-intent.

This past week the JCC, through its president, Mr Milton Samuda, issued a public statement calling for an independent probe of the issues surrounding Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, the American law firm which says it lobbied US government officials on treaty matters on behalf of Jamaica, but with which our government says it had no relationship whatsoever. Manatt says it was engaged by the firm of Jamaican lawyer, Harold Brady, who says he mistakenly characterised as a consultant to the Jamaican government in the contract he signed, but that the error was corrected.

No evidence has been provided for any of this and the matter grows more complex and convoluted. The assumption is that the Manatt issue is related to Jamaica's refusal to extradite West Kingston strongman, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke to stand cocaine and gun charges in America.

Statement on Manatt

Apparently, the JCC issued its statement on Manatt on the same day that the Opposition leader, Mrs Portia Simpson Miller, put out her own, also calling for an independent investigation of the issue and for Prime Minister Golding to speak with clarity on the issue. It is a position held and articulated by any number of Jamaicans. The PNP, and others, have issued many statements on the Manatt/Coke affair.

But JLP general secretary discerns motive; that perhaps the JCC and Mrs Simpson Miller's People's National Party (PNP) acted in concert.

"That level of coincidence I find very interesting," he told this newspaper. "It is really hard not to find it interesting (for the JCC and the PNP) to arrive at the same conclusions at the same time."

Clearly, Karl Samuda, who has been given the assignment to clean up the Manatt mess, is inventing a political spectre with the probable intent of corralling the JLP base. For, he knows better.

After all, the JCC's position is in line with basic common sense. And, at times, the Opposition does manage that.

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.