May 24, 2010

PLEASE, let us not forget!

From the Sunday Herald - Even if Bruce Golding does not resign he has lost the moral authority to continue as Jamaica’s Prime Minister. This is underscored by the unprecedented numbers of national organisations either calling for his resignation or expressing disappointment in the handling of the Christopher Coke extradition and the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips issue.

DelanofranklynNever in the history of Jamaica’s parliamentary democracy, since it was first introduced in 1944, has a Prime Minister ever been called upon by so many national organisations and a wide cross section of civil society to tender his resignation.

The call for Mr. Golding’s resignation is even more pronounced given the fact that 15 years ago when he formed the National Democratic Movement (NDM) Mr. Golding spoke about a new approach to governance.

When he explained in 2002 his reasons for going back to the JLP, he was at pains to point out that if given the opportunity he would lead the process of transforming Jamaica’s party political landscape and the system and nature of Government. As a result of these pronouncements he was able to sway many of the persons and institutions now calling on him to resign.

Promises made

In 1995 he said that there must be a severance of the link between political representatives and those who do not uphold the rule of law.

Yet, by 2010 he is being perceived by many inside and outside of the country as preventing the extradition of a person wanted for gunrunning and drug trafficking.

In 1995 he said that what Jamaica needs is a Cabinet of no more than 14 persons. Yet, by 2007 when he became Prime Minister, he formed a Cabinet consisting of 18 persons.

In 1995 he spoke about the importance of a non-partisan and effective civil service bureaucracy. Yet, by 2008 having disagreed with the proposal for the appointment of Stephen Vasciannie as Solicitor General by the Public Services Commission (PSC), he caused the dismissal of all members of the said PSC.

He forgot that at the launch of the NDM on October 29, 1995 he lashed out against the central feature of Government when he said: “The central feature of the Westminster system is the enormous concentration of power in the Executive and more particularly in the hands of the Prime Minister, which undermines the real purpose of Parliament and deprives the people of effective representation.”

In 1995 he spoke about the importance of dialogue and openness with public bodies, particularly those critical to the operation of a successful Government, the teachers, nurses, and the security forces. Yet, by 2010 he unilaterally broke off bargaining and negotiation with the said organisations, resulting in a standoff between these organisations and his Government. In 1995 he said, which he repeated in 1997, that nominations to the position of Ambassadors and Directors of Statutory Boards and Public Corporations should be made by the Prime Minister and approved by the Members of each House of Parliament. Thus far, Mr. Golding has ignored this promise.

Role of the judiciary

The most earth shattering about-turn by Mr. Golding, however, is how he has dealt with the Coke extradition affair. In October 1995 Mr. Golding said: “‘We (NDM) are committed to the effective separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary… The Prime Minister should be responsible for the control and direction of policy, which would include the executive management of the State services as well as Budget preparation and implementation…

The judiciary should be responsible for adjudicating questions of law and interpreting the provisions of the Constitution.’

Yet, in March 2010 in defence of a person whose extradition is being sought by the United States Government under an extradition Treaty between the USA and Jamaica, Mr. Golding has sought to use the Executive to usurp the functions of the judiciary by saying that the evidence against the person was ‘illegally obtained’ and, therefore, inadmissible in a court of law.

Mr. Golding was wrong in law because illegally obtained evidence is admissible in court so long as the evidence is relevant to the point or points in issue. If Mr. Golding had sought to uphold his views expressed 15 years ago, he would not have found himself in his current predicament.

Politics and crime

The extradition affair as well as the way in which Mr. Golding has sought to deal with the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips issue raises the fundamental issue of the relationship between our political parties and political leaders with alleged criminals, criminals and criminality.

It was on this point that Mr. Golding was most strident between 1995 and 1997, when he called upon the people of the country to rally behind him in his effort to de-link the relationship between politics and crime.

In November 1995 he said, “This custom” must be rooted out of Jamaican politics and that he would be doing everything if given the opportunity to dismantle garrison politics in Jamaica. At the time Mr.

Golding had lots of support for what was termed his “principled position.”

He had the support of wellknown persons, for whom I have a lot of respect such as, Bishop Herro Blair, Tony Hart, Howard Mitchell, Reverend Ralston Nembhard, Peter Thwaites, David Wong Ken, Robert Russell, Dr. Andre´ Foote, Wayne Leahong and Wayne Chen.

Today, Mr. Bruce Golding has apparently turned his back on his former principled position and by extension those who were with him in 1995 to 1997. Not only did he grab the garrisoned West Kingston constituency with both hands, but he is now using his position as Prime Minister to lead the defence of a man who former Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for West Kingston Edward Seaga, having given then Commissioner of Police certain information, went on to say as reported on September 29, 1994:

“He is a gang leader (and that) none of what is happening in West Kingston (violence) could have happened without his vesting.” Continuing, Mr. Seaga said, “I have no control over these fellows — I have no control over these 13 men who have a pattern of brutality that I will not tolerate…

They have blown off the leg of a young girl who at 20 years old has to walk with crutches; they have killed two sons of one lady within three days; they have killed a sevenyear- old, and nine-year-old boy.

They sent 15-year-old boys with guns into the Rema Community in order to chastise, in order to mete out what they call justice.” If this is the case, how can Mr. Golding exercise any moral authority in the fight against crime and violence staking the land? How can Mr. Golding speak with convincing authority about breaking the link between politics and crime? How can he successfully wage a battle against Jamaica being perceived, unfortunately and embarrassingly as a ‘narco state’?

Source of funds

The extradition of Mr. Coke is being sought by the US for gunrunning and drug trafficking.

Mr. Golding at first denied knowledge of the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips being hired either by the Government or the JLP to lobby members of the US Government on behalf of Coke.

Mr. Golding, thereafter, under pressure from the Opposition and national organisations, admitted that as Leader of the JLP he sanctioned the deal. He also stated that the funds to retain Manatt, Phelps & Phillips were paid by the JLP. It would be interesting to find out who were some of the donors to such a cause. Of course, Mr. Golding ought not to have a difficulty with this, as in regards to funds raised by political parties, he said in 1995, albeit speaking about campaign financing:

“Political parties should be required to disclose to the Electoral Commission the source of financial contributions or the monetary value of contributions in kind which, in any one year exceeds twenty five thousand dollars ($25,000) in the case of individuals or two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) in the case of organisations or corporate entities.”

Mr. Golding’s recent backpedalling on the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips affair has mortally wounded his position as Prime Minister. It is unbecoming of a person who had pledged that he would do everything, if given the opportunity, to break the link between politics and alleged criminals. Now is the time for all of those who believe in this ‘principled position’ to speak up and speak out, including those who rallied around Mr. Golding between 1995 and 1997, when he was ‘new and different’.

Delano Franklyn is an attorney at law, author and a former Government State Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade.

1 comment:

  1. I am purposely not saying a thing on this topic. I have plenty opinions (when am I lacking in those?) but I don't think my feelings will ever translate. I am angry, sad, disturbed, disappointed and want some positive action to take place!