PRIME Minister Bruce Golding faced stinging criticism and calls for his resignation throughout yesterday, in the wake of his confession that he had approved his ruling party’s engagement of US law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips in the ‘Dudus’ extradition saga.
In the meantime, Information Minister Daryl Vaz last night slapped down rumours that an emergency Cabinet meeting had been called last night, presumably related to the affair.
“It’s rubbish. The prime minister is right now at the opening of Secrets Hotel in Montego Bay,” Vaz told the Observer when contacted by cellphone.
In a press statement earlier in the day, Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller, declared she had lost confidence in Golding and the Government.
She stopped short of calling for him to step down, but cited the resignation of her information minister and general secretary, Colin Campbell in the blistering Trafigura scandal that erupted in the last months of her administration.
“The prime minister’s admission that he sanctioned a scheme to circumvent the role of the Government of Jamaica to resolve a treaty dispute with the Government of the United States of America and normal diplomatic channels has brought the Government into disrepute,” Simpson Miller said.
“From any perspective, the prime minister’s behaviour is disgraceful, outrageous, and out of step with the norms of prime ministerial behaviour and decorum in any democracy in general and the Westminster system in particular.
“…In this scenario, the Opposition has lost confidence in the Government and cannot trust anything that the prime minister and his Government say. The Government has lost all credibility, because its prime minister has been caught involved in a scheme to mislead the public and cover up questionable activities,” Simpson Miller said in a press statement.
Radio talk shows were inundated with criticisms of Golding and calls for his resignation came from the People’s National Party (PNP) affiliates, Patriots and the PNPYO, as well as the National Democratic Movement (NDM) which Golding formed in 1995 and then abandoned when he returned to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
A little known group calling itself the “Centre For Leadership” also joined the calls for the prime minister to step down after his controversial admission Tuesday in Parliament that appeared to suggest he was not being fulsome on March 16 when he told the House the Government had nothing to do with the law firm.
Tuesday, Golding admitted he had sanctioned the JLP engaging Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to help seek resolution with the United States administration over the US request for extradition of Christopher Coke to face charges of drug and gun-running.
“At a minimum, the prime minister must withdraw his statement regarding the Opposition’s “strength of character…,” said Simpson Miller, a reference to Golding’s stern rebuff of Dr Peter Phillips’ questioning of the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips involvement in the extradition saga when it was first raised.
Not mincing words, the NDM’s Michael Williams urged Golding to “immediately tender his resignation as prime minister”, charging him with being “dishonest to the country in Parliament” and continuing “to do so for several weeks”.
“…He has compromised the integrity of the Government that he leads and deceived the people of Jamaica,” Williams said in a news release.
Both the Patriots — the young professional caucus of the PNP — and the party’s youth arm, the PNPYO, were at one in calling for the prime minister’s resignation.
“We are of the firm and united opinion that the prime minister should tender his resignation…since obviously, his inability to create safe distance between his office as prime minister and his position as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party and Member of Parliament for West Kingston, has caused this country and our people at home and abroad throughout the Diaspora undue embarrassment,” the Patriots said in a statement.
It accused the administration of creating “an unnecessary impasse between the Governments of Jamaica and the United States of America”.
In a separate statement, the PNPYO said it was “disgusted” by the pronouncements of the prime minister, adding that “in any real democracy the prime minister, having made such a statement, would have had to follow that statement with a statement of resignation”.
“Understanding the Government is obviously devoid of morals; we are not surprised that the prime minister did not end his presentation with a resignation but wishes to recommend to the prime minister that this step need to be taken with immediate effect,” the PNPYO said.
For its part, the previously unknown Centre For Leadership declared: “We believe that the prime minister of Jamaica should resign with immediate effect. He no longer has the moral authority to govern or lead. The number one foundation in any leadership relationship is trust. Can we continue to trust him or the Government he leads? Let it all fall down and let us rebuild again for the youth and future of this nation.”