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MOUs did not trample on Jamaicans' rights, says Phillips

Published:Wednesday | February 16, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Dr Peter Phillips (left), chairman of the of the People's National Party's communication commission, speaks with Karl Samuda, former Jamaica Labour Party general secretary, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston yesterday. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Former national Security Minister Dr Peter Phillips says he did not sacrifice the constitutional rights of Jamaicans when he signed the controversial memoranda of understanding (MOU) that have come to light at the ongoing Manatt-Dudus commission of enquiry.

"Absolutely not," Phillips testified during yesterday's sitting of the commission as he sought to defend his decision to sign the MOUs.

"It does not substitute for, in any way, shape or form, the responsibilities of the courts," he said during examination by one of his attorneys, Debra Martin.

He said the MOUs do not allow for the interception of any communication in Jamaica between a citizen and anyone else, but provides for the sharing of intelligence gathered.

Didn't need approval

At the same time, Phillips said he was not required to seek Cabinet approval before signing the MOUs, as they were not establishing or changing any government policies.

"Section 69 of the Constitution says that Cabinet is the principal instrument of policy in Jamaica. These memoranda established no new policy, nor did they change any policy," he explained.

"They were simply matters dealing with the management of facilities and the management of intelligence product," he added.

Phillips said he was authorised to sign the documents by virtue of his ministerial responsibilities and by the fact that they were "in full conformity with the policy that was being pursued by the Government of Jamaica".

The highly classified MOUs, which involve Jamaica, the United States (US), and the United Kingdom (UK), were signed by Phillips in 2004.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Taylor, under cross-examination, testified that the MOUs involved the military and should have had the signature of the then minister of defence, P.J. Patterson, and not Phillips.

Ambassador Evadne Coye, who is the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, has testified that several public servants, including herself, searched for the documents for months before they were found in the Ministry of National Security.