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Earlier Dudus hunt may have hurt economy

Published:Thursday | June 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

IF THE green light to proceed with the process of extraditing Christopher Coke had commenced earlier, Jamaica might have found itself in more dire circumstances than it is in, Prime Minister Bruce Golding has hinted.

In a cameo defence to his position of prime minister during the debate on a no-confidence motion on Tuesday, Golding said the economy would have suffered a catastrophic collapse had police been sent to arrest Coke in 2009.

"Last year was a very challenging year, not just for this Government but for the country. We had to take some decisions last year and we had to do some things, otherwise we don't know where we would have been this year," Golding said.

He told Parliament that while his administration pursued the extradition for Coke by taking advice from eminent legal minds, "there were some serious issues that the country had to face that had to be protected.

"The position that we are in today, in terms of how we have managed to position the economy to give us a chance to survive the onslaught of the last two years, if we had taken decisions that we are being maligned for not taking, we would not have been there," Golding told Parliament.

The country was forced to enter into a borrowing relationship with the International Monetary Fund last year after the world recession crippled Jamaica's productive sector. The economic downturn had wiped out the bauxite sector, threatened the stability of tourism and stifled remittances.

Too problematic

The Golding administration was also confronted by the request for Coke's extradition and the prime minister stopped just short of saying he was too problematic a man to target when the country was in a precarious position.

"Certain things that we did last year, you could not have done it on the heels, on the backside of civil disturbance," Golding said.

Government had delayed signing an authority to proceed in the extradition case against Coke for nine months. The US had requested that he be extradited for arms and drug trafficking, but Government cited contentious issues with the request and refused to sign.

Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne gave the authority to proceed against Coke after public outcry forced Golding to huddle with his Cabinet to discuss the issue.

Golding then told the nation in a broadcast that the Government would move to arrest Coke, but some persons questioned the wisdom of allowing the alleged crime boss time to fortify his defences.

"He vacillated on giving the authority to proceed and then telegraphed the eventual issuing of the arrest warrant, which frustrated the normal extradition process," Peter Bunting, the opposition spokesman on national security, said in Parliament on Tuesday.

However, Golding said the execution of that warrant for Coke would not have been a "simple matter". He said that he took advice from the security forces who told him of the enormity of the problem that might have resulted if they were to move to arrest Coke.

Seventy-three civilians and one soldier died in last week's push into Tivoli.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com