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Letter of the day: Justice demands courage

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

The Editor, Sir:

The United States' (US) extradition request for Christopher 'Dudus' Coke requires objectivity, wisdom and courage. I believe that objectivity is necessary because without it, responses to the request would be tainted by parochial, self-focused agendas and narrow partisan political considerations. Objectivity demands that the subjective element that is an ever-present threat be minimised or suppressed as much as possible so that the real issue at hand would be dealt with.

The prime minister claimed in Parliament recently that the request was based on evidence gathered in a manner which violated the laws of Jamaica and, hence, it should not be granted. The Reverend Al Miller, in a letter to The Gleaner, asserted that the prime minister's stand was a 'principled position'. Is there authentic objectivity in the prime minister's principled position? Is Mr Golding influenced and driven by a political agenda rather than by objective considerations?


Doesn't objectivity necessitate that the prime minister and the attorney general focus on whether 'Dudus' has indeed committed a crime, rather than on the way in which the evidence was collected? Doesn't objectivity require that the court of law determine the merits of the US request rather than the Government, which might have vested interest in the matter?

Beyond the objectivity factor, the Dudus extradition request also requires wisdom. There is a need for wisdom and legal acumen in determining the merits of the request. Indeed, as is quite obvious in the Extradition Act and the Extradition Treaty between the US and Jamaica, the attorney general of Jamaica has the discretion to determine whether there is just cause to grant a request for the extradition of any Jamaican. This is perhaps necessary. However, shouldn't there be checks and balances in the justice system so that no one person's discretion but collective wisdom be brought to bear on controversial but significant requests for the extradition of Jamaican citizens? I posit that collective wisdom and combined intelligence should be used in arriving at a decision to extradite or not.

If we agree on the need for wisdom with respect to international affairs and diplomatic dealings, then such wisdom might be pointing to another branch of the State that should be engaged in the process to assist the Golding administration to decide on whether or not to extradite. This arm is the judiciary.

Courage needed

A third and final element that is required in the Dudus controversy is courage. The kind of courage that must be foundational to any contemplated and concretised action must be one that is informed by the facts of the request rather than by personal or political sentiments or by red-herring arguments. I believe that the prime minister's courage demonstrated in his refusal to give the green light through the attorney general to the US request is remarkable in light of the standing of the US in the world. I suggest, however, that courage is needed in making the right decision on this vexing matter.

The issue is whether the Government knows what the right decision is. Justice does demand courage not just to take a 'principled stand' on the Dudus affair, but to make a decision to allow the court of law to decide. If indeed the US has erred vis-a-vis the means through which it obtained the evidence against Mr Coke, then the eminent judges in the justice system who are trained and experienced minds in legal matters should decide his fate.

I am, etc.,