Wednesday, June 1, 2011

[Jamaica-Gleaner] EDITORIAL - PM (Prime Minister Bruce Golding) On WikiLeaks

We commend Prime Minister Bruce Golding's engagement of this newspaper's ongoing publication of US diplomatic cables relating to Jamaica, even though the PM may have misapprehended the context of our action and the basis on which we have so far reported.

But while we would have preferred that the prime minister use a national platform, rather than a political party forum, from which to address the many critical matters raised in the communications to the State Department by America's envoys, we expect that Mr Golding will come to a clearer interpretation of the issues after fuller, sober consideration of the facts.

There are two points from Mr Golding's speech in Montego Bay on Sunday, however, that are easily attended and dispatched: that The Gleaner is wrong to publish stories from cables that may have been illegally acquired; and that we have "cherry-picked" our reports so as to harass his government and undermine those members of the two major political parties - the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) - whom we do not favour. The selective-reporting claim also relates, supposedly, to what Mr Golding refers to as "power brokers" at The Gleaner Company and others in the private sector.

Trafigura memories

Unlike with the purloined bank accounts in the Trafigura scandal, made public by the JLP, this newspaper did not inveigle the leak of the cables obtained by the free-speech website, WikiLeaks. We are publishing information that WikiLeaks will itself have published and is of vital importance to Jamaica.

We have access to more than 1,200 cables. These have to be sifted for, in some cases, threats to national security, and for defamation. We have no immunity from libel.

In this regard, it would be easy, as we suggested to the information minister, Mr Daryl Vaz - who, unlike Mr Golding, wants the uncensored publication of the cables - for the Government to table them in Parliament, thus giving the public unrestricted access to the information as well as providing the media with protection from defamation suits.

Indeed, this matter strengthens the argument for a reform of Jamaica's restrictive defamation laws, which Mr Golding himself placed on the agenda and with which we urge him to proceed with dispatch.

More fundamental, though, is the rare insight that these cables provide into how America's representatives view, and interpret, the behaviour of Jamaican institutions and their leaders and what informs Washington's policies towards our country. Some of what these envoys see in Jamaica is far from flattering. Much of it is embarrassing not only to Mr Golding and his government, but also to Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller and the PNP.

attacking the messenger

But shame is no cause for ad hominem attacks on the messenger, especially by an administration that promulgated whistle-blower legislation to provide protection for persons who, in good faith, disclose information that might redound to the benefit of society. Indeed, rather than power broking - the effective power brokers are the readers of this newspaper and civil-society institutions that they shape - what The Gleaner has sought to do is provide a balanced view of the issues, which, we hope, informs analysis and decision-making. Readers will be aware that in reporting, we have to conform to the laws of libel and cannot expect the US government to come to our defence in court in the event that we face lawsuits.

As Mr Golding knows, the vast majority of Jamaicans want good relations with the United States, Jamaica's close neighbour and, historically, good friend.

What the prime minister must do in his next intervention on the matter is say how he proposes to improve US-Jamaica relations and to honour his obligation to root from Government corruption and other forms of misbehaviour, which he promised when he took his oath of office.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

May 31, 2011