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EDITORIAL: A stink rising from the Brady affair

Published:Sunday | March 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

There is a whiff of something unpleasant emanating from the Harold Brady affair, but tempered for now by the liberal application of artificial fragrance of the sickly sweet kind.

This newspaper, however, hopes that last Thursday's statement by Prime Minister Bruce Golding is not an intended masking agent. For, at best, it has left people intellectually nauseous and has raised questions about management and accountability in the administration. There is a picture, too, of governance on the fly.

Harold Brady is a prominent Jamaican lawyer, who served as the secretary general of the International Democratic Union (IDC), that once-prominent international organisation of right and centre-right political parties, mainly in Europe and the Caribbean. Mr Brady at one time was also a candidate for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), the one that now forms the Jamaica government and of which Mr Golding is its leader.

These days, in so far as we are aware, Mr Brady chiefly concentrates on his law practice, with clients mostly of the corporate kind. That, understandably, might cause him to enter corresponding relationships with foreign law practices, such as the one he has with Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, the United States (US) law firm that is also registered as a lobbyist with the United States government.

What is, however, curious about this agreement that Mr Brady signed last October, and published on the website of the US Justice Department, is that it characterises Mr Brady as a "consultant" to the Jamaican Government. The clear implication is that the Jamaican Government is to be the ultimate beneficiary of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips' legal/lobbying efforts on "political and economic matters, including existing treaty agreements between Jamaica and the United States".

Government's dithering

Not unexpectedly, the political Opposition and other Jamaicans presume that the arrangement with the US law firm has something to do with, and was influenced by, Jamaica's quarrel with the US over the Government's dithering on America's request for the extradition, on narcotics and gunrunning charges, of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who is close to Mr Golding's party and very influential in his West Kingston home turf, which happens to be the prime minister's parliamentary constituency.

Mr Brady claimed it was in error that he signed a document describing him as a consultant to the Government and insisted that the error was corrected. He implied that the relationship between his firm and Manatt, Phelps and Phillips never, in any way, included the Government. Mr Golding declared likewise.

The PM has since said that while on a flight to Washington for a meeting with the US State Department towards the end of last year, Solicitor General Douglas Leys just happened to run into Mr Brady, who suggested that Manatt, Phelps and Phillips could be helpful. Mr Leys then met with the US law firm, which made a pitch for Jamaica's business, but was told its services were not required at this time. Mr Leys, nonetheless, accepted an offer for a representative from Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to attend his State Department meeting - presumably about the Coke affair - although the representative did not participate in the discussion and Jamaica was not billed.

Mr Leys would certainly owe the public a far fuller explanation for this seemingly unusual and irregular decision to involve a private firm in Jamaica's state affairs. Did he have the direction of higher authority?

Let's hear the truth before this matter grows really putrid.

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