Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
If a new prime minister emerges from the prominent names being bandied about as front-runners in the race for leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), any hope he has that the Manatt-Dudus episode will disappear with the resignation of Bruce Golding is likely to fizzle. At least, that is what the Opposition People's National Party is hoping.
Peter Bunting, PNP general secretary, has served notice that his party intends to tag Andrew Holness, Audley Shaw and Dr Christopher Tufton as senior members of the Government who were all culpable for the missteps of the Golding administration. "We don't believe that anybody can come in and claim that their hands are clean. So they will still have to defend the legacy of the (Bruce Golding) administration based on the principle of collective responsibility.
"Reasonably, they will not shoulder the same level of blame as Bruce Golding who was at the centre of whatever policies and strategies were carried out," Bunting told The Sunday Gleaner.
blame must be shared
"He would have the principal responsibility but certainly Audley Shaw as minister of finance, a senior Cabinet position; Christopher Tufton and Andrew Holness, both senior Cabinet ministers, must shoulder some of the blame," Bunting said.
Neither Shaw, Holness, Tufton nor the so-called dark horse in the race, Robert Montague was called on to testify at the Manatt-Dudus commission of enquiry, but Bunting has maintained that this does not exonerate them.
Two months ago, the PNP rode on the Manatt-Dudus extradition controversy on a successful bus tour through most of the island, but the party is not done yet.
Bunting charged that as chairman of the JLP's communications arm, Holness, who seems to be ahead in the race based on poll findings, was placed on the front line to defend what he characterised as the inappropriate action of the Government.
"As I said, I think they must be called on to give an account of their respective role in the Government's performance. The Manatt-Dudus issue would not disappear as it is at the very core of what people look forward to in a government - trust," Bunting declared.
"Many Cabinet ministers were involved in this web of deception and rogue action. They all sat in Parliament and closed ranks by defending and supporting the action," he contended.
"A change in leader will cause us to fine-tune and recalibrate changes in strategy, but barring the emergence of a prime minister from outside of the Cabinet or the executive of the JLP, we maintain that they are all tainted by the inappropriate and I believe corrupt handling of the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition matter as well as all the other elements of mismanagement of JDIP and the economy generally," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
After Golding dropped the bombshell last week, signalling that the JLP had to find a new prime minister to lead the JLP into the general election due by December 2012, the PNP appeared to have rushed back to the drawing board to craft strategies to take on any of the front-runners in the JLP leadership elections.
But Bunting was quick to dismiss suggestions that the party was in a tailspin and was forced to adopt a wait-and-see approach in the aftermath of Golding's announcement.
While stressing that the PNP was not overly preoccupied with developments in the JLP, he conceded that the strengths and weaknesses of the contenders are being examined by their strategists.
"We will continue to monitor the environment to help assess the pacing of our work and that's where we are," the PNP general secretary said.
He added: "We are continuing to do the work that we had planned to do; of course, we take into account the pending changes in leadership in the Jamaica Labour Party and how that may impact on variables such as the timetable for an election."
Bunting told The Sunday Gleaner that the party's secretariat is proceeding with its programme of work to finalise the selection process of a few candidates that remain outstanding for confirmation "to ensure that all our parish campaign operations are functioning".
He revealed that these organisations have been mandated to be ready for either a local government or a parliamentary election.
"As such, we are continue to develop our communication strategy and our manifesto, so that's really the programme of work that we are on at this time," he said.