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WikiLeaks embroils Nelson, Lewin in new war of words

Published:Wednesday | December 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Former police commissioner, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin.
National Security Minister Dwight Nelson

Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter

The WikiLeaks release of a 2009 cable highlighting Cuban authorities' concerns about Jamaica's efforts to deal with the international drug trade has sparked a fresh war of words between National Security Minister Dwight Nelson and former police commissioner, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin.

The two men had a public spat earlier this year after Lewin charged that alleged crime boss Christopher 'Dudus' Coke was tipped off minutes after he briefed Nelson about an extradition request from the United States.

With that dispute still simmering below the surface, the two men are at it again.

Late last week, Lewin told The Gleaner that he had no recollection of Cuba having a problem with the force during 2009, as suggested by the leaked cable.

Nelson fires back

Lewin also shot down an earlier suggestion from Nelson that the then head of the Narcotics Division, Senior Superintendent Carlton Wilson, was reassigned because of these concerns.

According to Lewin, Wilson was transferred under his watch, but it had nothing to do with complaints from Cuba.

Nelson fired back in a release yesterday. While again not naming Wilson, the security minister refuted the claims of the former commissioner.

Nelson said a probe by a high- powered team (that he led) found that there were at least 20 letters from the Cuban government between January 2006 and November 2009 addressed to the head of the JCF Narcotics Division.

The security minister claimed these letters included requests for information on persons arrested in Cuba on suspected drug activities.

According to Nelson, there was no record of responses to the Cubans.

"The Government of Jamaica finds it hard to believe that the then commissioner (Lewin) was unaware of these letters from the Cuban government, and the subsequent failure to respond," the national security minister's release stated yesterday.

Nelson also stood by his December 16 statement that any improvement in the relations between Kingston and Havana came after the head of the Narcotics Division was removed and the division renamed.

But again he was careful not to make an overt link between the Cuban concerns and the transfer.

"It is a fact that it was subsequent to this officer's removal, restructuring and renaming of the division, and a visit to Cuba by the new head that a new cooperation developed between the JCF's Transnational Crime and Narcotics Division and the Cuban authorities," said Nelson.

However, he did not respond to Lewin's claim that the Jamaican Government's handling of the WikiLeaks cable was unfortunate.

Nelson also steered clear of the claim by chairman of the Police Officers' Association, Senior Superintendent Michael James, that Wilson's reassignment was routine.

James last week argued that Wilson's reassignment gave him greater responsibility and really reflected a promotion.

According to Nelson, the comments by the former commissioner were examined by an investigating committee from his ministry which included himself; his acting permanent secretary, Dianne McIntosh; Deputy Police Commissioner Glenmore Hinds, and Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Antony Anderson.

Other members of the investigating team were JDF Colonel Trevor Lecky; Superintendent Wrenford Robinson, of the Transnational Crime and Narcotics Division, and Assistant Superintendent Keisha Scott.