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Den of liars - Jamaicans say state officials were untruthful at Manatt-Dudus enquiry

Published:Wednesday | June 22, 2011 | 12:00 AM

A LARGE number of Jamaicans believe that public officials who testified at the Manatt-Dudus commission of enquiry lied under oath.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Dorothy Lightbourne has been viewed by 48 per cent of respondents as not a very truthful witness before the commission. Only eight per cent viewed the testimony of Lightbourne as truthful, while 15 per cent felt she tried to mislead.

The credibility of four public officials; Lightbourne, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Solicitor General Douglas Leys and National Security Minister Dwight Nelson was assessed by Jamaicans in the latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson polls. The poll was conducted among 1,008 people across Jamaica's 14 parishes on May 28 and 29 and June 4 and 5, 2011. It has a margin of error of plus or minus four per cent.

Johnson found that 12 per cent of Jamaicans believe Golding was truthful on the stand. The prime minister, however, came out ahead of Lightbourne, Leys and Nelson on Jamaicans' unofficial truth-o-meter.

At the same time, Golding, who K.D. Knight, the People's National Party (PNP) lead attorney at the enquiry, had characterised as "pathologically mendacious", was viewed by 45 per cent of the respondents as having lied under oath. Another 15 per cent said he tried to mislead the commission.

The solicitor general was seen by only six per cent of Jamaica as having been truthful on the stand, with 35 per cent of the respondents opining that he lied under oath.

Leys told the commission that he was never aware that the discussions with Manatt were part of an attempt by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to get assistance in dealing with the extradition request for Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

He claimed his visit to Washington, DC, to meet with representatives of the US State Department was purely a government-to-government issue. He said at no time prior to December 2009 was he aware that Harold Brady, the man selected by Golding to lead the talks with Manatt, had any involvement in the extradition matter.

"I now realise that there was, for want of a better term, a web of deception, and Mr Brady was involved in that," Leys testified.

Meanwhile, Nelson, the national security minister, whose "I can't recall" responses before the commission were viewed in some quarters as evasive, was seen by only seven per cent of Jamaicans as being truthful. Another 43 per cent believed the national security minister lied and 14 per cent said he tried to mislead the commission.

The Emil George-led three member commission did not pronounce on the credibility of the witnesses captured in the Johnson poll. But an aspect of the enquiry, which concerned an email allegedly sent on behalf of Lightbourne to Leys and copied to Harold Brady, occupied its attention.

Lightbourne had initially agreed with the suggestion that she could have authored the email but later changed her testimony, saying she had neither authored nor authorised it.

After considering the matter, the commission said "the evidence is incomplete" even though the email has "not been proven to be a forgery".