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Miller stands alone - 'Dudus' divides Church

Published:Sunday | March 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Lovelette Brooks, News Editor

One of Jamaica's most popular religious leaders sides with the Government on the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke issue saying there is no fodder for the courts of the land to consider regarding the United States' extradition request.

The oft-controversial and colourful Al Miller of Fellowship Tabernacle and head of the Government's National Transformation Programme, said that Prime Minister Bruce Golding is correct in his stance on a matter of "principle of the law".

Accusing the Church and the private sector of "getting sentimental to the point of overlooking justice", Miller argues that Jamaicans must not allow the pending conviction to "cloud our judgement!"

In a letter to The Sunday Gleaner, he affirms his support for the Golding position.

"We ought not, on this point, to vilify the PM (prime minister) by narrow thinking rooted in our fears or partisan outlook ... ."

"We should commend his courage to stand, and pray that it is an indication of his commitment to 'principle', which will always protect and be directed to all citizens, regardless of colour, politics or station in life," Miller wrote.

But, while Miller sides with Golding, he stands against his own religious affiliate, the Full Gospel Ministries (FGM).

Bishop Rowan Edwards of Lighthouse Assembly and president of The Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches said that the Coke extradition request has its place in the court of law.

'The court must make the final decision," he said bluntly, criticising Prime Minister Bruce Golding for not approaching the matter in a "wholistic way", and said that his swipe against the US in the House of Representatives recently was unfortunate.

Spoke frankly

Responding in Parliament to the annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, recently released by the US Department of State, Golding spoke frankly: "I know that perhaps it is politically expedient to say it is Coke. Or it could have been Matthews Lane strongman 'Zekes' (Donald Phipps), or it could be any of these. I am not defending the wrongdoing of any person, but if I have to pay a political price for it, I am going to uphold a position that constitutional rights do not begin at Liguanea."

Liguanea is the base of the US Embassy in St Andrew.

Edwards' position is in keeping with that of the wider umbrella group - the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) - which represents 95 per cent of denominations operating in the island.

Reverend Peter Garth, speaking on behalf of the JCC, said Friday that the matter should go before the courts, agreeing with the position put forward by the Private Sector Organisation (PSOJ) of Jamaica earlier last week.

"This issue is neither a JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) nor PNP (People's National Party) matter. It is something that affects the entire country. All the influential groups in the island should have been consulted - the PSOJ, the Church, and the Bar Association.

"The PM, perhaps, acted alone. He should have consulted the best legal minds on both sides, and should not have said the US erred; allow someone else to say it," Bishop Edwards said in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, adding that "the US can and has the intent to harm Jamaica".

Miller adamant

But Miller is adamant in his stance that the extradition request should only be sent to court if there is "ambiguity".

"Let us not panic over what the USA or others may do; let us choose to do right. They, too, must do justly, and if not, we must guide them."

Referring to the highly publicised extradition request as a "national crisis", Miller suggests that the country should use the Dudus scenario as a platform to bring about social and economic changes in several spheres of the society.

"Let us as a nation take the opportunity to responsibly tackle and overcome the root that has created 'Dudus', 'Bulbie', 'Andem' - among others - crime and violence, 'garrisonisation', 'donmanship', tribalism ...

"Our problems continue because those with the authority either do not know how, or often lack the will and/or humility to ask for help. Let us not allow the Christopher Coke extradition to further divide us, but [let us use it] to look at ourselves and galvanise around a 'cause', a common enemy to fight 'negative international perception'. Let us unite and show the world who we really are as Jamaicans," reads a section of Miller's letter.

Biblical principle

While he stoutly defends the PM's position, Miller drew on biblical principles, claiming that no nation should make it necessary for another nation to judge its citizens.

"A citizen should be judged by their 'own' nation and not be given to another, particularly if they are domiciled in their own country. Interesting to note, I have discovered that Mr Coke has not been to the US since as a child. All accusations against him are alleged to have taken place while he is in Jamaica."

Last year, the United States issued an extradition request for Coke for trafficking drugs and guns between Jamaica and the US.

Yesterday, the attorney representing Coke, Tom Tavares-Finson, said he could not comment on the matter.

- lovelette.brooks@gleanerjm.com