Opposition shreds Dudus report
KINGSTON – The main opposition People’s National Party has shredded the findings of the recent Commission of Enquiry that probed the circumstances leading to the extradition of reputed drug lord Winston “Dudus” Coke to the United States last year.
The opposition has labelled the Commission findings, which did not lay blame on any particular group, as empty, devoid of logic, constituting a grand cover-up, and a colossal waste of time.
The party’s legal officials said that Commissioners failed miserably to carry out their functions.
The ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had welcomed the report even though the Commission said Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s involvement in the matter was “inappropriate”.
The 58-page report tabled in parliament by Golding noted that he “should have distanced himself completely from the matter”.
The Commission outlined several recommendations, including that the posts of Minister of Justice and Attorney General should be split and that the Attorney General need not be a member of either House in Parliament.
It also recommended that the Cabinet should be informed of any amendments or memoranda affecting constitutional rights and that the Commissioners of Enquiry should be given the powers of a Supreme Court Judge for the purpose of being able to cite for contempt.
But attorney and former government minister K D Knight who led the PNP law team at the enquiry described the recommendations as “weak, very weak, extremely weak and in some instances irrelevant. They lacked thought and have very little to do with the terms of reference”.
“There was no analysis of the evidence. They ignored the evidence adduced at the enquiry and came to some conclusion which it is difficult to see how they did,” said KD Knight, the party’s lead attorney at the enquiry.
“In their findings, for example, they said that the behaviour, for example, of the prime minister was inappropriate and therefore one cannot understand, having defined misconduct in the way they did, having made the finding that they did, how could they possibly, rationally conclude that there was no misconduct?” Knight said.
“That they concluded that there was no misconduct on the part of anyone is amazing, having regard to the fact that they themselves defined misconduct and in the definition of misconduct they referred to inappropriate behaviour,” he said.
Coke was arrested an extradited to the United States last June after security forces moved into West Kingston constituency to effect the order. At least 73 people were killed.
The matter led to calls for the resignation of the prime minister after it was revealed that a United States law firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips had been hired to lobby Washington on the extradition affair.
Prime Minister Golding sought to distance his administration from the law firm, saying it had been hired by the ruling JLP.
But the three-member Commission said that it found “no misconduct on the part of persons we enquired into”, adding “mistakes and errors were made, but no one, in our view, was guilty of misconduct in the part he or she played in the matter of the extradition of Mr Coke”.
Knight told the news conference that the Commission dealt with matters that were not in their terms of reference, including constitutional issues which they were not qualified to handle.
“Constitutional issues are dealt with in the Supreme Court. On the ladder, the rung at which they are at is so low, that no reasonable person would expect them to be making such findings and indeed the findings on constitutional issues were irrelevant.
“They concluded that the authority to proceed ought to have been signed at an earlier stage. They concluded that there was a reasonable basis on which that could have been done and therefore to have gone further to determine whether the fugitive’s constitutional rights were breached was not something that was expected of them,” Knight said. (CMC)