Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Facing the music and keeping the faith

BY JEAN LOWRIE-CHIN | Jamaica Observer | Monday, September 06, 2010

Janet Reno on Waco:"This was the hardest decision I have ever had to make."

LAST Thursday evening, about two dozen "opinion leaders", attended a meeting at Jamaica House with Prime Minister Golding. The PM related the chronology of the Christopher "Dudus" Coke extradition order on August 25, 2009, noting that he had been advised of a "significant flaw in the way in which the evidence was placed". He said that it was not unusual for the JLP as a political party to get involved in international relations and Harold Brady was asked to call a long-time friend of the Party, Frank J Fahrenkopf, Jr who had served as chairman of the Republican Party during Ronald Reagan's presidency.

Fahrenkopf told Brady that with the change of US government, it was better that he contact Chuck Manatt, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Golding admitted that when he heard that there would be a formal engagement of Manatt's law firm, "I should have shut it down", meaning the relationship with the firm.

The PM said that a friend, who read the script of his May 12 apology to the nation, advised him not to say that he had sanctioned the hiring of the legal firm, but rather that he accepted responsibility. "But I did sanction," said Golding, "and I was not going to hide." He said he decided to take the heat and apologise "profusely and sincerely". During last week's meeting, Golding took a good pounding from media and human rights representatives as he kept turning the other cheek - "Yes ... yes ... you are right."

Regarding the US$50,000 that had been used to pay Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, the PM said it had been provided by a longtime donor to the JLP. He said the individual was a business person who had asked that his name not be disclosed since he was running a business and did not want to become embroiled in the current controversy. I think Professor Trevor Munroe came up with a good suggestion: disclose the name to the selected members of the Electoral Commission and let them tell the country if they are satisfied with the person's bona fides.

I left the meeting sorry for Golding, but sorrier for Jamaica. As he himself said, "There were some things that went terribly wrong." What made it so "terrible" was the shock that this exemplary prime minister could have sanctioned such a deal. People who have held political office have told me that it is hard to understand the intricacies of political relationships at the constituency level, especially in a community once described as "the mother of all garrisons".

Once Golding took the decision to send the security forces into Tivoli, certain elements declared war on the state. Women marched with signs declaring, "I will die for Dudus", police stations were torched and gas cylinders were wired to be set off, if the barricades that had been set up around the community were breached. As the US State Department had done in Waco, Texas in 1993, numerous notices were sent out, appealing for residents to give up their self-appointed leaders.

After a 51-day standoff in Waco, a non-lethal gas was leaked into the compound to try to end the siege. However, as then Attorney General/Justice Dept Head Janet Reno related, "Six hours went by, six hours, and still no one came out. The rest you know. The Branch Davidians were recorded while they spread the fuels used to ignite the fire that resulted in the deaths of all but nine." Seventy-six persons, including four soldiers, died that day in Texas.

"This was the hardest decision I have ever had to make," said Reno, "probably one of the hardest decisions that anybody could have to make. It will live with me for the rest of my life. I'm accountable for it."

Perhaps this is in effect what Bruce Golding is saying to us. But forgiveness has to be earned. Perhaps if he pushes through the constitutional reforms giving term limits to the PM, and taking away his powers to call an election any time, and if he is able to get passage of the Organised Crime Act and amendments to contract award procedures, he could well win back our faith.

The PM should desist from calling out the media. He should understand that headlines and cartoons are the direct result of his self-confessed sanction. As he rightly pointed out at the meeting, "We will never bring closure to this matter." A colleague remarked to me that Golding has provided comfortable facilities for the Opposition party at West King's House Road to huddle for "nightmare planning" - no good deed goes unpunished!

He should take comfort from Dr Al Sangster's remark that it was the first time a Jamaican Prime Minister had said "I erred ... please forgive me." Dr Sangster urged him to turn his focus on "running the country".

I was criticised by a reader for listing "a litany of positives in the country" in last week's column. To his incredible suggestion that I was doing PR for the JLP, let me emphasise that my "litany" was about talented Jamaicans who were producing despite the challenges. Those of us who love Jamaica more than we love party, soldier on in our imperfect environment and give each other energy by supporting what is good about us.

This is why Governor General Sir Patrick Allen and Lady Allen hosted an "I Believe" -- themed luncheon last Tuesday to honour NCU's Xormis Team that captured the Microsoft Imagine Trophy in Poland earlier this year over such IT giants as the US, China, India and Japan. "For this modest-sized university in a small developing island to be the top in the world in an IT competition is nothing short of phenomenal," said the GG.

Since giving his classic "I Believe" Inaugural Address, Sir Patrick has founded, with Lady Allen, an "I Believe" programme, embodying "the ideal of a Jamaica in which individuals are inspired to believe in themselves, actualise their full potential, and contribute to the building of a prosperous, progressive and peaceful nation."

Did the Allens do this to make any politician look good? Of course not! Like all patriots, they believe in our possibilities and refuse to become immobilised by fear and cynicism. We should not blind ourselves to the goodness of so many around us, and the natural beauty we enjoy. Even as we come to terms with the tragic events of the past year, Jamaicans still have every reason to believe.

Trevor Dawes
Jean, back in the days of Waco, Janet Reno wa not the US Sec'y of State but the AG/head of the Dep't of Justice. Just to correct that mistake.
Kwame Gordon-Martin
In her quest to quash it, Jean has initiated more questions. Was this "significant flaw" in Dudus's case present in any previous extradition? Why did the party spend so much political capital in order to prevent Dudus's extradition? Where does the "party" stop and the government begin? At the end of the day, the JLP masquerading as "our" government expended every kind of capital, monetary, social, political to prevent the extradition of a wanted man. To me, that's enough reason for a resignation
Kram Blake
At some point Bruce will have to stop apologizing for his actions in the Dudus matter. A general election will eventually be called and if we accept his apology and thinks he is the best leader at that time we will vote for him. If we think Portia is better we will vote for her. How much apology can one person give? Whether or not we accept his apology it is time to move on.
Allan Jones
Is this the same Dr. Sangster who could not see any wrong in Mr. Golding when he had the Public Service Commission fired? He like this writer can obviously see no wrong in Mr. Golding and this article is obviously a part of the ongoing PR campaign as stated by the reader last week.
Ruby Shim
It seems Mr golding can do no right and Mrs DSimpson Miller no wrong. We never had this kind of angry outbursts when Trafigura was uncovered. Dont tell me Colin Campbell was the only one in the government who knew about the money being paid for favours. I suppose its not corruption if its done by the PNP. Mr golding should take Prof Munroe's advice and let us move on to rebuild our country.
Wa Tch
"Perhaps if he pushes through the constitutional reforms......"
No Ms. Lowrie Chin, opinion leader, what he has to do is resign?
By the way who are the other opinion leaders who were invited? Could they be apologists for Golding who hold the incredible view that he turned the other cheek. Is this lady describing the same arrogant PM who engages in disgusting tracing and distortion of facts. No madam he is not exemplary and should GO.
Beresford Davidson
You all, in the press, want something make fuss about that ended up costing lives and embarrassing the country. When the PNP was in power they could do no wrong; now the JLP is in power you want them to toe the line. That's hog wash and bs; the Jamaican press is as corrupt as those, in politics, they play blind to see and those they opposed claim to be.

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