Confession: Samuda Admits Brady Hired Manatt
GENERAL SECRETARY of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Karl Samuda, admitted yesterday that unnamed persons within his party approached local attorney Harold Brady to engage the services of a United States law firm to resolve an explosive treaty dispute between the Jamaican and US governments.
However, the party is silent on who paid US$50,000 to Manatt for services rendered and who were the unnamed JLP persons who approached Brady to establish formal contact with Manatt.
In a release yesterday, Samuda, who is also a senior government minister, said persons within the JLP contacted Brady "to see whether, through his wide network of international contacts, he could assist in facilitating the opening of discussions between the US authorities and the Government of Jamaica" to resolve a treaty dispute.
Samuda said he was aware that Brady's law firm had retained the services of Manatt in October 2009 to lobby US officials.
"I am advised that all payment arrangements to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips were transacted between the two firms. The Government of Jamaica had nothing to do with any aspect of these arrangements," he said.
However, the man who first quizzed the prime minister on the Manatt affair in Parliament, Dr Peter Phillips, wants to know how a scheme such as this could be concocted without the knowledge of senior party officials.
He also questioned what interest the JLP, as distinct from the Government, had in entering into a treaty dispute matter with the United States.
"That would seem to be something that really belongs in the realm of state-to-state relations," he asserted.
Further, Phillips said Samuda's statement "does not answer the question (of why) Manatt believed it had entered into a contract with the Government".
However, in his statement, Samuda insisted the Government did not enter into any contractual arrangement with Manatt, contending that "no payments were made to the firm by the Government of Jamaica".
The JLP general secretary also responded to a Washington Post story which claimed a Jamaican minister of government met with Manatt and US State Department officials.
He said Dr Ronald Robinson, junior minister for foreign affairs and foreign trade, had a "brief social encounter" with a representative of Manatt while on a visit to Washington on November 20, 2009. He said Robinson had declined an invitation by Brady to attend a meeting at the State Department.
The Washington Post article claimed Manatt signed a US$400,000 contract to lobby on behalf of the Jamaican Government and spent several months talking with the White House and other administration officials about why the United States should not extradite accused Kingston drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
Coke is wanted in the US to face drug and gun-trafficking charges. However, the Jamaican Government has refused to extradite him, arguing the Americans' case is based on illegally obtained evidence.
Yesterday, Samuda's statement also sought to make it clear that Solicitor General Douglas Leys had visited Washington in December to have discussions with officials of the State and Justice departments.
"This meeting was arranged through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US Embassy in Jamaica," Samuda said.
"The solicitor general and the team that accompanied him met with representatives of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips at Mr Brady's invitation. The discussions were exploratory and were focused on alternative approaches that have been taken in similar treaty disputes with the US."
He added: "The solicitor general made it clear that the Government of Jamaica saw no need at that stage to engage their services but would be prepared to consider doing so should the need arise."
According to Samuda, Leys had accepted a suggestion that a representative of Manatt attend the planned meeting with the State and Justice departments as an observer, which he did with the full approval of the State Department.
"The solicitor general, who had had no previous contact with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, was not then aware that the firm had already been retained by Brady & Company. He has had no further contact with the firm since that encounter in December," Samuda said.