Monday, April 4, 2011

The Jamaican extradition enquiry - was it worth it?

by Oscar Ramjeet

As the Dudus/Manatt Enquiry comes to an end in Jamaica, one wonders if the well publicised and talked about enquiry was worth it -- not only in terms of its high cost, but the verbal abuse and clashes between lawyers, politicians, and even public servants.

Even those who advocated the setting up of the commission of enquiry felt that the exercise was not worth it -- the entire proceedings turned out to be a farce, a gimmick, and a platform to criticise and embarrass government officials, including the head of government, prime minister Bruce Golding, and the administration's chief legal advisor, the attorney general and minister of justice Dorothy Lightbourne.

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider Caribbean 
Reports from Kingston state that the setting up of the commission of enquiry was political suicide for Prime Minister Bruce Golding and his Jamaica Labour Party administration.

People's National Party's lawyer, K.D. Knight QC, was on centre stage, using his legal position to embarrass Golding and Lightbourne, who had no choice but to take the "blows" and answer the questions, although the same questions were repeated over and over and at one stage the prime minister refused to answer after being accused of being a liar.

Political analyst Kevin Chang said that Knight's behaviour has distracted from the issues being probed at the proceedings and said that the Queen's Counsel’s behaviour was out of order and he was rude to the prime minister, the minister of justice and others. Chang made a comment that raised eyebrows when he said, "The commissioners have also been timid about making firm rulings against Knight for fear of appearing biased because they were chosen by government."

Why should these honourable and distinguished members of the Commission be timid? Knight is so powerful. He is a senator, a top notch lawyer and served as minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade as well as minister of national security, but that does not give him licence to bully his way.

He has certainly transformed the enquiry into a different direction, instead of trying to ascertain the reason for the delay in extraditing Coke, and if it was the government of Jamaica retained the law firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips or the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and who should be blamed for the death of more than 70 persons.

Lightbourne made some serious statements that should be tested when she blamed the deputy director of public prosecutions Jeremy Taylor and solicitor general Douglas Leys.

However, what was worse was the battering of the prime minister by KD Knight and at times milking the enquiry for all the political fuel he could wring out of it. Surely Golding, before he set up the commission, must have thought that he would have to testify and he would be cross-examined.

One commentator who was at the enquiry said, "I felt ashamed, seeing him being visibly rankled and literally crying out." The commentator asked, "Did he not know that was Knight's objective? To psychologically destabilise him, to up his pressure, to get him red in the face and then to do so in front of the nation. Did he not see it coming?”

The entire fiasco was being televised for the entire nation to see. Was that a good move?

The Jamaica Council of Churches has also weighed in and chided Knight and others for their "tasteless behaviour" and comments at the enquiry.

The government has allocated JA$37 million for the enquiry, but another $21 million has been added to it and this might not be enough because the exercise has taken more than double the time it had anticipated, no doubt because of the line of cross examination.

April 4, 2011