Cablegate: Jamaica: Opposition Grills Prime Minister in Parliament On


DE RUEHKG #0753/01 3441745
O 101745Z DEC 09



E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/12/10

REF: A. KINGSTON 749; B. STATE 125895; C. KINGSTON 680

CLASSIFIED BY: Isiah Parnell, CDA; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)


1. (SBU) The continuing controversy over the Christopher "Dudus"
Coke extradition request exploded into partisan rancor and
bitterness in Jamaica's Parliament on December 8, as Peter
Phillips, Member of Parliament (MP) for the opposition People's
National Party (PNP) and former Minister for National Security,
accused Prime Minister (PM) Bruce Golding and his Jamaica Labour
Party (JLP)-led Government of Jamaica (GOJ) of "taking longer than
the average period of time" to comply with the request. The PM ,
however, adopted what would seem to be a new tack in the continuing
drama in alleging that in fact it was the U.S. that has been
responsible for the delay by failing to comply with Jamaica's
Mutual Assistance Criminal Matters Act, although he refused to
provide any details. Pandemonium reportedly ensued, as backbenchers of both parties heckled speakers and House Speaker Delroy Chuck struggled unsuccessfully to restore order. The imbroglio
illustrates both the GOJ's paralysis over the issue as the Golding
administration flails for new legal points on which to delay a
decision, as well as the PNP's determination to use the issue as a
means of attacking the JLP's moral authority to govern. End

Golding Moves The Goal Posts


2. (SBU) Peter Phillips, PNP MP and former Minister of National
Security told Emboff that he had tabled a series of fairly
innocuous written questions to Parliament as a means of engaging
the PM as to the status of the Coke extradition request. Amidst
shouting from MPs of both parties, Golding insisted that the
three-and-a-half month delay that has elapsed since the U.S. State
Department submitted the request was "not unusual" and was in fact
necessary in order to ensure that due process was followed.
Furthermore, the PM attributed the delay to the USG's failure to
"follow proper procedure" in issuing the request. In defending his
administration's handling of the Coke extradition request, Golding
accused both the PNP and the media of "taking positions in
ignorance" and not having "access to the facts [and] procedures
that must be followed," while "the Minister of Justice enjoys no
such privilege [and] must uphold the laws of the country."

3. (SBU) The PM implied that the evidence presented in the
extradition request may have been collected in violation of
Jamaican law, although when asked to do so by PNP backbencher
Ronnie Thwaites he would not cite the specific law in question.
"Most requests that have been received depend for their process on
the provisions of the Extradition Treaty with the particular
country and on the Extradition Act," Golding noted, but added that
"[t]his particular request is somewhat different in that it also
relies for its validity on the provisions of the Mutual Assistance
Criminal Matters Act. The Government of Jamaica has raised with the
U.S. authorities issues regarding its compliance with that Act."
Therefore, Golding maintained, "it is not a matter as to whether
(Minister of Justice Dorothy Lightbourne) is inclined to authorize
the extradition, it's a question that the minister would be
authorizing something that she knows would be in violation of the

4. (SBU)(NOTE: In recent demarches on the Coke extradition, the GOJ
has raised concerns that evidence acquired through wiretaps in
Jamaica were apparently not processed through the Mutual Legal
Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and has requested direct consultations on

this point between representatives of Jamaica's Ministry of Justice
(MOJ) and the USG's Departments of State and Justice (Reftel A).
The DOJ's position, however, maintains that the MLAT did not
represent "an exclusive means for sharing of law enforcement
information" (Reftel B). The Departments of State and Justice have
agreed to meet with the MOJ representatives in Washington on
December 17. (Reftel B). End Note).

Pandemonium in Parliament


5. (SBU) Obviously dissatisfied with the PM's response, Phillips
contended that Golding's explanation "did not stand to reason" and
pressed for more details. Golding refused, insisting that the GOJ
and the USG had agreed not to discuss the matter publicly. (NOTE:
Golding maintained that he had indicated to the USG that he would
brief Parliament on the status of the case without providing
specific details. Soon after the extradition request had been
submitted, an envoy from the PM's office had requested that the USG
refrain from publicly pressuring the GOJ over the politically-sensitive issue (Reftel C). Although Post has generally refused to comment on the matter publicly, there has been no such explicit agreement or understanding between the GOJ and Post. End Note). Golding maintained that the delay was not unusual and cited several cases in which the previous PNP-led government had delayed granting extradition requests, in one case for as long as three years. The PM also pointed out that since taking office in September 2007, a total of 31 Jamaicans had been extradited to the U.S.

6. (SBU) As the debate continued and became more and more heated, House Speaker and JLP MP Delroy Chuck attempted unsuccessfully to bring order to the proceedings and to prevent Phillips from asking questions that were "inappropriate." "It is not for trial in the Parliament," Chuck maintained. "If the Prime Minister indicates that there is a breach of domestic law, why are we inquiring
further?" Amid shouts of "sit down" from JLP backbenchers, Thwaites
replied "Because we need to know. We are the ultimate arbiters of
the law."

7. (SBU) When Phillips referred to a recent newspaper article
alleging that members of the Cabinet had met with Coke and asked
whether such a meeting would be appropriate, Chuck objected to the
question on the grounds that "you have no evidence that that member
met with the person," while the PM referred to the House's Standing
Orders in refusing to respond. "The member knows he cannot ask a
hypothetical question like that," Golding stated. "He may very well
be seeking to grandstand, but he knows it's against the Standing
Orders." Golding, however, did make a veiled reference to the PNP's
own ties to criminal organizations, citing Phillips' attendance at
the funeral of garrison community don in 2001.

Golding Denies Advance Knowledge of Extradition Request

--------------------------------------------- ----------------------

8. (SBU) Phillips also asked the PM whether USG authorities had
briefed him on the Coke case on assuming office in 2007. Despite
Chuck's attempt to prohibit the question as "prejudicial" to Coke,
the PM nevertheless responded that he had first received
information about the extradition request the day before the USG
submitted it to the GOJ on August 25. (NOTE: Post disputes the PM's
recollection, noting that former Ambassador Johnson briefed the PM
on the case in January 2009. Phillips himself reported to Emboff
that as the outgoing Minister of National Security he briefed the
PM on the case shortly after the September 2007 elections that

brought the JLP to power (Reftel D) End Note).

9. (C) In comments to Emboff, Phillips noted that he had planned
the altercation with the Prime Minister by tabling the questions
and felt that the PM had been "twisting and turning" in trying to
justify the GOJ's inaction on the extradition request. Phillips
alleged that the GOJ is "determined to take the side of the Shower
Posse (the criminal organization with which Coke is associated)
rather than that of the people of Jamaica," and that he's not aware
of any "timetable for action" on the part of Golding administration. As he'd implied in Parliament, Phillips maintained that two Cabinet members - Minister of Information Daryl Vaz and Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne - as well as JLP Senator and Coke attorney Tom Tavares-Finson met with Coke regarding the extradition request sometime between September 21 and 24; when confronted with this allegation in Parliament, Phillips noted that the PM did not acknowledge that such a meeting occurred, nor did he deny it.

PM Fails To Recognize Severity of Situation

--------------------------------------------- -----------

10. (C) Phillips maintained to Emboff his belief that the PM
remains unconvinced of the seriousness the USG attaches to the Coke case, and that the PM will not give way on the extradition request without pressure from two sources: the USG and Jamaican public opinion. Given that the Coke issue is the subject of almost daily speculation and debate in newspaper editorials and on talk radio, Phillips contends that without action on the part of the USG the PM is unlikely to budge on the issue and to assume that it will recede
in importance over time. According to Phillips's sources, the
Golding administration has been quietly reaching out to friends in
the U.S. Congress and the administration through backchannels to
try to circumvent the Departments of State and Justice and to make
their case to the White House. Phillips also told Emboff that many
key JLP stalwarts - Minister of Finance Audley Shaw, Minister of
Education Andrew Holness, Minister of Housing Horace Chang, and
Minister of Foreign Affairs Kenneth Baugh among them - have
expressed to him their dissatisfaction with the Golding
administration's handling of the Coke extradition request, but that
they're unlikely to break with Golding over the issue, nor would he
expect any JLP MPs to cross the aisle over the issue.

Concern Over Lack of U.S. Ambassador, IMF Agreement

--------------------------------------------- ----------------------

11. (SBU) The PM also addressed the USG's delay in naming an
ambassador to replace Brenda LaGrange Johnson, who departed Post in January 2009. Speculation has been rampant in recent weeks that the White House's decision to nominate Anne Slaughter Andrew as Ambassador to Costa Rica, and not to Jamaica as had been
anticipated, as well as the delay in announcing another nominee was
due to the GOJ's intransigence on the Coke extradition request.
Similarly, many see the slow progress of the GOJ's talks with the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a standby agreement as
evidence that the U.S. is stymieing the resolution of the
negotiations (Reftel E). Golding insisted that the delay in naming
a new ambassador was due to "preoccupation with other matters" on
the part of the White House and the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, and pointed out that the "processing and approval of the
President's nominees for several postings," such as Trinidad and
Tobago, had taken a great deal of time as well. "We await the
appointment of a U.S. Ambassador, in the same way that many other
countries are," the PM noted. (NOTE: Post is unaware of any linkage
between the Coke extradition request, the IMF negotiations, and the
naming of a new ambassador. Nevertheless, conspiracy theories are
ubiquitous in Jamaica, and the belief that these issues are related

is widely held. End Note).

Foreign Minister Apologizes


12. (C) On the evening of December 9, Foreign Minister Kenneth
Baugh telephoned CDA to apologize for the PM's remarks in
Parliament and to express regret that Golding had been put in such
a position by Phillips. Despite the PM's statements and the
headlines to the contrary, the Foreign Minister assured CDA that
Golding had been misquoted and that it was not the position of the
GOJ that the USG had violated the MLAT or the extradition treaty.
Interestingly, although the Office of the Prime Minister issued a
press release on the morning after the debate highlighting the PM's
comments on the delay in naming a new U.S. ambassador, there was no press release correcting or reinterpreting the PM's comments
suggesting the USG was responsible for the extradition delay.

Summary and Analysis


13. (SBU) The GOJ's raising of the MLAT issue privately in the
December 3 demarche (Reftel A) and now publicly on the floor of
Parliament suggests that the Golding administration is sensitive to
increasing concerns raised in the media and by the opposition that
the GOJ is stalling, grasping for any legal rationale it can find
to forestall the extradition of the politically-connected and
powerful Coke, who controls the garrison community of Tivoli
Gardens in Golding's own West Kingston constituency. The GOJ
appears to be trying to have it both ways - publicly blaming the
USG for the delays, while privately assuring CDA that this is not
the position of the Golding administration. However, in publicly
accusing the U.S. of violating Jamaican law while blaming his
refusal to provide specifics on a nonexistent agreement with the
USG, Golding can have the best of both worlds - casting off
responsibility for the delay while remaining confident that the USG
will not contradict his version of events.

End Summary and Analysis.

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