Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter
THE BRUCE Golding administration yesterday retreated behind the bright green cover of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) as it came under increasing public pressure over its handling of the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips affair.
With the airwaves bombarded with criticisms of the prime minister over his belated admission of his role in contracting the United States law firm, government ministers ducked and pointed questions to the party.
The usually smooth-talking information minister, Daryl Vaz, bobbed and weaved as he faced journalists at the weekly post-Cabinet media briefing.
No comment from Vaz
With the echo of the infamous Portia Simpson Miller quote during the Trafigura saga, "Ask the PNP", in the background, Vaz, the JLP's deputy treasurer, argued that he was at the media briefing as government spokesman and not speaking on behalf of the JLP.
"I'm not going to sit here at post-Cabinet and deal with those internal party matters," he said. "You have a general secretary of the party and that is where the matter has been put, and I suggest you pose those questions to the party."
According to Vaz, he stood by the statements he had presented to the media since the issue first surfaced, as those comments were related to the role of the Government.
"The prime minister has made his statement. I really have nothing to add or subtract from that further than to indicate that I sit here as the spokesperson for the Government on information matters, and any other matters that you might want to speculate on I'm not prepared to go there."
However, Vaz was quick to jump to the defence of Golding, who is facing calls for his resignation.
"The prime minister has been forthright. He has been 100 per cent honest and he has put the matter clearly and squarely out in the open," Vaz said.
Supporting the pm
"As far as I'm concerned, the prime minister did what he had to do, and the fact is that those who are calling for the prime minister to resign and for the Government to resign have no moral authority to call for anybody to resign based on their past and their history," added Vaz.
He argued that even as the JLP deputy treasurer, he would not necessarily know who paid the US$50,000 to Manatt, and pointed to the prime minister's claim that the money came from financial contributors to the party.
Vaz also indicated that the decision to contract Manatt had been considered by the party's central executive, which is its highest decision-making body outside of the annual conference.
"You are carrying me into areas which I have no knowledge of and I would suggest that you pose those questions to the relevant ministers or the party officials," said Vaz in response to questions about the role of Attorney General and Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne in the affair.
The information minister would also not be drawn on questions about how the Government had handled the matter.
"I don't want to comment on that. What I can say is this situation has been further complicated by the misrepresentation of the Government."