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FLIP-FLOP: Golding admits sanctioning contract with Manatt

Published:Wednesday | May 12, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Bruce Golding in Parliament yesterday. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
A fiery Portia Simpson Miller in Parliament yesterday. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Daraine Luton, Senior Gleaner Writer

THE Saga surrounding the engagement of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips to lobby the United States (US) government on the extradition matter involving alleged crime lord Christopher Coke took a new twist yesterday when Prime Minister Bruce Golding admitted that he gave orders for the US law firm to be contacted.

In a statement to Parliament yesterday, Golding said that he, in his capacity as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), gave authorisation for Manatt, Phelps & Phillips to help lobby the United States on the extradition issue.

"I sanctioned the initiative, knowing that such interventions have, in the past, proven to be of considerable value in dealing with issues involving governments of both countries," the prime minister told Parliament.

Added Golding: "I made it clear, however, that this was an initiative to be undertaken by the party, not by or on behalf of the Government."

The revelation by the prime minister caused a firestorm in Gordon House as opposing members traded insults across the political divide, many imputing motives.

Some members of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) even labelled Prime Minister Golding a liar.

"Yuh too lie, man. Yuh tek sensible people fi idiot," remarked a seemingly annoyed Dean Peart, member of parliament for North West Manchester.

Portia Simpson Miller, the leader of the Opposition, slammed her desk in disgust and turned away from the direction of the prime minister as he attempted to justify his actions.

Golding had declared in Parliament two months ago that the Government had not contracted Manatt, Phelps & Phillips to lobby the US government on the extradition of Coke, who is wanted in the United States on drug and gun-trafficking charges.

The engaging of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips cost the JLP nearly US$50,000, which Golding said was not Coke's money.

"These funds were sourced from financial contributions to the party. Rumours and speculation carried in the media that these funds were provided by Christopher Coke are completely false," Golding said.

Clash over standing orders

As Opposition members pressed the prime minister for answers yesterday, Golding took cover behind the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives. He said many of the questions were not in keeping with the rules of the House and argued that he was not obliged to respond to party matters in Parliament.

Yesterday, Golding stood by his comment that the Government did not hire Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and asked whether it was too much for the Opposition PNP to say they were wrong to assert that such was the case.

However, for some PNP members, the prime minister lied by omission when he refused to say that he knew about the lobbying efforts.

"You knew about it, so why didn't you say so?" shouted Simpson Miller.

South Central St Catherine MP Sharon Hay-Webster was equally annoyed. "You told us you knew nothing," she said.

East Central St Andrew MP Dr Peter Phillips had brought the issue to Parliament in March but Golding said Phillips was seeking media publicity and "headlines".

It was subsequently revealed, through postings on the United States Justice Department website, that Jamaica, through attorney-at-law Harold Brady, had contracted the US law firm to lobby that country on treaty matters.

The Government subsequently denied that Brady was acting on its behalf despite Manatt, Phelps & Phillips maintaining it was representing the Jamaican Government.

Yesterday, Golding said Manatt, Phelps & Phillips was mistaken about who it was representing.

"From the investigations that I have made, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips were made to believe that Mr Brady was acting on behalf of the Jamaican Government, rather than the JLP, and that their engagement was authorised by the Government of Jamaica," Golding said.

He told Parliament that Manatt, Phelps & Phillips registered the Government of Jamaica as its clients without the knowledge or appropriate authorisation of Government.

He also said that Solicitor General Douglas Leys had exchanged emails with Brady on the matter and that it was subsequently revealed that the emails sent to Brady belonged to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.