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Dudus-Manatt Commission of Enquiry - Deception & contradictions

Published:Sunday | February 13, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Frank Phipps
Frank Phipps
Minister of Justice Dorothy Lightbourne
Patrick Atkinson (left) listens keenly to K.D. Knight during a session of the Manatt commision of enquiry at the Jamaica Conference Centre. At centre is Deborah Martin. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Under piercing cross-examination by attorneys K.D. Knight, Frank Phipps, and Patrick Atkinson, Solicitor General Douglas Leys, the main witness during last week's sitting of the Dudus-Manatt commission of enquiry, painted a picture of deception and contradictions, among senior members of the Bruce Golding administration in relation to their public comments about their knowledge of events surrounding the hiring of the American law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

In four appearances before the commission, Leys, a central figure in the Manatt affair, gave testimony contradicting statements made before the enquiry began by Prime Minister Bruce Golding, and his immediate boss, Attorney General and Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne.

Contradiction 1

Leys' first contradiction came on Tuesday when he told the commission that aspects of a statement Lightbourne made in the Senate during a censure motion brought against her last July were not true.

The attorney general, who was seeking to defend her role in the Dudus-Manatt affair, told the Senate, among other things, that she became aware that representatives of the United States law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips were part of the Jamaican delegation that attended a meeting at the US State Department after it was raised in Parliament by Opposition MP Dr Peter Phillips.

However, during cross-examination by People's National Party (PNP) attorney, K.D. Knight, Leys testified that Lightbourne knew from December 2009 that the US lawyers would attend the meeting, which had been arranged to discuss the US' extradition request for accused drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

He claimed he telephoned Lightbourne from the residence of Jamaica's ambassador to the US to request her permission for Manatt representatives to sit in at the meeting. "I have given you the facts, sir," Leys told Knight.

Contradiction 2

The second contradiction came when the solicitor general dismissed as false, Lightbourne's claims in Parliament on October 2 last year that the extradition request should have, but did not, come to her through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Asked by Knight if Lightbourne's words accurately described what had transpired, Leys responded: "No, sir, those would not be accurate."

When Leys returned to the commission last Wednesday, the focus was on statements made by Prime Minister Golding. He said he believed Golding's apology to the nation last year for his administration's handling of the extradition request for Coke was constructed with falsehoods.

During a broadcast to the nation on May 17 last year, Golding said: "The engagement of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips by Mr (Harold) Brady was an effort to secure assistance in resolving the stalemate because the party (JLP) was concerned about the negative effect it was having on relations between Jamaica and the United States."

Asked if there was stonewalling on the part of the US government at that time, Leys responded: "I would not agree with this. Between those two dates (August 25, 2009 and September 18, 2009) and the two countries (Jamaica and the US), there was no stalemate, not at that point in time."

Asked by Knight if he would have told the nation there had been a stalemate: "Having regard to the factors that I had to encounter, no sir," Leys said.

On Friday, the solicitor general told the commission he now realised that the engagement of the US law firm was part of a web of deception, and named local attorney Harold Brady as one of the persons involved.

He also dismissed the administration's claim that Manatt had been engaged by the JLP, testifying that extraditions are government matters, and as such, Brady "had no function or right" in it.

Expect more fireworks

It is likely that sparks will be ignited this week at the enquiry, with some of the key players in the controversy scheduled to appear.

According to the order revealed by commission Chairman Emil George on Friday, former Junior Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Ronald Robinson is scheduled to appear tomorrow.

He will be followed by Deputy Solicitor General Lackston Robinson, Opposition Member of Parliament Dr Peter Phillips, National Security Minister Senator Dwight Nelson, Minister Lightbourne, then the prime minister.

Senator Dorothy Lightbourne could be called to testify this week. Many persons are anticipating a showdown between the justice minister, who is another key player in the Dudus-Manatt drama, and attorneys representing the Oppo-sition People's National Party.

A showcase of legal luminaries

Drama and the contradictions aside, the Dudus-Manatt commission of enquiry has turned into a showcase of some of the nation's most eminent attorneys.

Patrick Atkinson, unlike many of his counterparts, is sober in his delivery.

Atkinson is representing the People's National Party's Dr Peter Phillips at the enquiry, which has concluded its second week.

Atkinson has featured in some key cases in the last 10 years including the successful defence of six police officers in the March 2001 deaths of seven youth in Braeton, St Catherine.

He is one of the lawyers representing former Junior Minister Kern Spencer in the Cuban light-bulb trial currently before the courts.

Speaking to The Sunday Gleaner shortly after leaving the enquiry on Friday, Atkinson said the Manatt-Dudus hearing is worlds apart from his recent cases.

K.D. Knight is an opposition senator who was called to the Jamaican Bar in 1973 and appointed Queen's Counsel in 1995.

The self-styled 'Sheriff' is a former minister of national security and justice and a former minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.

Knight has also served on a number of regional and international trade and observer missions.

Hugh Small, who was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1985, has managed to stay out of the spotlight since resigning as finance minister in 1993.

Small studied at the University of London and was called to the Jamaican Bar in 1963.

He served as minister of mining and energy and minister of industry and commerce before serving five years as a justice of the Supreme Court in The Bahamas.

Winston Spaulding, another Queen's Counsel, has been practising law since 1966.

He served for six years as minister of national security and justice and attorney general before walking away from active politics.

During his extensive legal career, Spaulding practised law in the UK and The Bahamas and was a founding member of the Jamaica Council for Human Rights.