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Naming politicians who 'hug up' criminals

Canute Thompson

Monday, December 03, 2018

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Young, outspoken, feisty, up-and-coming Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) heavyweight Matthew Samuda has threatened to name politicians who are “hugging up” criminals. Should Samuda follow through on his threat (promise) — and I doubt he will — Jamaica would surely benefit. And so, for Jamaica's sake, I urge Samuda to do as he has promised.

But, even if he does not do so publicly, I suggest that he provides the report, with the evidence he has, to the police.

Samuda's threat has led me to reflect on a recent book written by Dr Paul Ashley — a feisty and outspoken socio-political provocateur, cynic, and attorney-at-law. The book is entitled Dudus: The Extradition of Jamaica's # 1 Drug Don. This book may provide some impetus as well as, paradoxically, some caution, to Samuda as he embarks on the promised name-calling mission.

This 176-page book is largely documents that were central to the Christopher “Dudus” Coke extradition saga, as well as excerpts of transcripts from statements in Parliament and the commission of enquiry. It is the first, and only one of its kind and represents “an attempt to place in an easily accessible format, selected documents…” which are critical for future use as the society seeks to understand what took place on those fateful days in May and June 2010, during which time 73 people lost their lives as a direct consequence of the efforts to capture Coke and the deployment of the machinery of the State to block extradition.

But Ashley notes that the “repercussions” of the extradition were not just 73 lives lost — though that was indeed the worst — nor the use of the resources of the State — though that may have been the most scandalous and shameful. Other repercussions include the declaration of a state of emergency, resignation of the prime minister, use of mortars on a civilian population, resignation of a Government senator, and armed intervention against the State.

Ashley's book is a necessary project and its purpose addresses a serious deficit in a society such as ours in which facts on issues quickly dissipate and public ignorance replaces facts these. In his faithfulness to the facts, the author's commentaries are limited and the narrative sections of the book are largely a summation of verifiable events. Crucially, the work contains certified true copies of original documents such as Coke's consent to be extradited (page 170), the warrant of committal for extradition (pages 171 - 172), and the extradition warrant signed by the minister of justice (pages 173 – 174).

There are even more interesting pieces such as the letter from the law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips (pages 102 – 104) to then Minister of Justice and Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne, in which the law firm outlines the sequence of actions leading up to and names the actors responsible for its services being retained by the Government of Jamaica. The central actor discussed in the letter is Harold Brady — whom it was being alleged represented himself to the law firm as acting on behalf of the Government of Jamaica. The Manatt letter states, in part, “Manatt…was retained by Harold Brady, as a consultant to the Government of Jamaica…Brady's actions confirmed that he was acting with the knowledge and authorisation of the Jamaican Government to engage…”

Brady is again the subject of another law firm's letter — this time a local firm, Henlin Gibson Henlin. In this letter (pages 105 – 107) the firm is acting as attorneys-at-law for Brady, whom it asserts had been defamed by statements made by Prime Minister Golding about Brady, who was being made into a fall guy for the exposed operation. The statements attributed to Golding include one in which he suggests that Brady's actions were so egregious that consideration was being given to filing a complaint about him to the General Legal Council, but Henlin insisted that Brady “…was instructed by (Golding) to use his international contacts to try to resolve the political issues raised by the extradition request…” and that Brady “…reported to (Golding)…(who) instructed (Brady) to agree to the Manatt, Phelps and Phillips terms, but to ensure, as best as possible, that the Government did not appear to be involved….” (page 106).

The signed warrants, on the one hand, and the letters from the two law firms, on the other, expose the central plot of the Dudus affair. While the warrants suggest some deception, the letters indicate the attempts to remove the veil of the attempted cover-up (Manatt's letter to Lightbourne) and the refusal by Brady to have slush poured all over him (Henlin's letter). Henlin's letter, which was dated September 15, 2010, was a firm pushback by Brady against the attempts to make him the fall guy. This was political theatre at its highest, which is how Ashley describes the entire affair, which would be a “farce”, had it not been such a “tragedy”.

One key element of shifting evidence in the Dudus affair was although Brady was described by Golding as having acted without authority, sometime in September 2010, according to the letter from his attorney, Golding had earlier stated in an address to the nation on May 17, 2010 that: “The engagement of Manatt, Phelps, & Phillips by Mr Harold Brady was an effort to secure assistance in resolving the stalemate, because the party was concerned about the negative effect it was having on relations between Jamaica and the United States.” (page 96)

If one wished to be technical one could ask, “So was Brady engaged or not?” The possible answer could be “depends on how you define engage”. But the evidence is clear.

Lesson and legacy

Ashley's larger purpose in writing this book is born of what may be described as building guard rails for future government. He states:

“Without properly understanding the Government's behaviour, as well as the response of the United States of America, it is likely that aspects could be repeated…[given that] the underlying features of the Jamaican political reality – the dependency of a small state in the shadow of US hegemony…and political garrisons umbilically (sic) tied to the major political parties…remain intact.”

Thus, the question we must ponder is: What has Jamaica, in general, and those who wish to hold office, in particular, learned from these tragic events and the watershed level of abuse of State power in May 2010? We have moved on so fast and carpeted the issue so tightly that we have not quite come to terms with this shame. The farce of two commissions of enquiry, which were nothing more than an attempt at what Ashley describes as a “...late-ditch effort at political tidiness”, has not helped. The only exception is that in the case of the second commission of enquiry, the State was able to secure a case for paying reparation to residents of Tivoli who had been wronged — and with whom the party could use the largesse of the State to mend fences.

When the Dudus extradition saga is understood for what it truly was it becomes evident that there is no guarantee that future governments will not make the same mistake. There is ample evidence of abuse of power. We have the current reality of three states of emergency under which the rights of citizens are being abused and to whom, if the public defender does her job to the end, the State will be required to pay millions in compensation. We also have the spectacle of the country awaiting judgement from the high court in relation to a challenge brought against a law passed by the Government, yet the Government is proceeding with the implementation of the law as though the court action never happened.

If we do not study history we are bound to repeat errors. Ashley's book is a timely lesson in history, packaged in a neat and organised way to allow the student — whether the parliamentarian, the student of politics at the university, the journalist, callers to talk shows — easy access to facts. Ashley's book should be read by every Member of Parliament, councillor and caretaker, at a minimum, as well as by public servants.

This book is a reminder of how nasty politics is and how discerning we all must be as we try to do our work. Very often employees are induced or seduced to carry out tasks in relation to which they must ask questions before they proceed, and to be prepared to decline if they think that it is unlawful or unethical. This does not mean that errors will not be made, but the need to be discerning cannot be overstated.

But perhaps the biggest lesson from this debacle is that Golding has never apologised to the country. Apologies were issued to the residents of Tivoli by Prime Minister Holness, but not to the people of Jamaica. Holness ought to have issued an apology to the people of Jamaica and to pledge not to walk this way again. It is not too late for the Jamaica Labour Party to apologise to the country for “hugging up” Dudus and using the resources of the State to that end. We wait.

Dr Canute Thompson is head of the Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning, lecturer in the School of Education, and co-founder and chief consultant for the Caribbean Leadership Re-Imagination Initiative, at The University of the West Indies, Mona. He is also author of four books and several articles on leadership. Send comments to the Observer or canutethompson1@gmail.com.

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