THE SOUNDS of consternation, shock and fury reverberated around Jamaica into boardrooms and bars, barber shops and parlours, on the streets and into homes as Jamaicans wrestled with the unabashed about-face of Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
After weeks of vehement denials that he had anything to do with the American law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Golding admitted on Tuesday that he actually sanctioned the talks.
Leading the chorus of no-confidence against Prime Minister Golding was Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller, who yesterday described his admission as the ‘mother of all scandals’.
“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.
“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,” Simpson Miller, said as she argued that the “government has lost all credibility”.
Meanwhile, the National Demo-cratic Movement (NDM), which Golding once led, said the prime minister “has com-promised the integrity of the Government that he leads and deceived the people of Jamaica”.
“The members of the Cabinet and the Senate, especially those former members of the NDM, should be particularly ashamed and should walk away if Golding refuses to do the honourable thing. Their failure to do so would make them complicit in misleading the country,” the NDM said.
President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Milton Samuda, also asserted that the credibility of the Bruce Golding administration had been compromised.
The sentiment has been echoed by vice-president of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals, the Reverend Peter Garth, as well as political analysts Richard ‘Dickie’ Crawford and Dr Hume Johnson.
“We feel that the unfolding of the events absolutely vindicate our position that there ought to have been an independent investigation into the matter,” declared Samuda.
The JCC head said Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) General Secretary Karl Samuda’s report two weeks ago has shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Government had found itself with a conflict of interest.
“That, plus the prime minister’s statement, make it crystal clear that in the first instance, the issue of the extradition ought to have been left to the courts,” the JCC boss contended.
“And in the second instance, the issue of the so-called treaty matters ought to have been dealt with through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other well-established channels,” he added.
Garth agrees that the latest development has elicited additional questions.
“The situation was quite shocking and alarming because, based on what I heard before, it seems as if the country might have been misled. I cannot understand the play on party and Government,” said the clergyman.
“I believe that the Government needs to put the matter squarely on the table in all honesty because the integrity of our country is at stake,” contended Garth.
However, the JLP’s Samuda, a senior government minister who was called in at the 11th hour to help resolve the matter, appeared quite introspective and meek yesterday in the midst of the turmoil.
“It must be our resolve as a government to ensure that our utterances and actions are not interpreted as being confrontational or overly aggressive, particularly towards the public, on sensitive issues of national significance,” he said.
Meanwhile, Crawford was blunt in his analysis of the situation.
“The prime minister’s comments on the extradition issue and the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips case have landed the Government and the ruling party of Jamaica into an even deeper crisis,” he declared.
President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Joseph M. Matalon, admitted that the situation was baffling, but said he did not want to pre-empt any decision of his executive.
Political analyst Dr Hume Johnson argued that the handling of the affair was poor on fundamental levels.
“The protracted delay in addressing the issue, the idea of calling upon his own ministers to investigate the matter, and the ultimate discovery that he wilfully and calculatedly misled the Jamaican people is proof that Prime Minister Bruce Golding does not believe in open and trans-parent government.”
“In highly established democracies, no prime minister could act in such a manner and still retain his or her position. In this regard, I believe Bruce Golding should resign,” said Johnson.
Attorney-at-law Jacqueline Samuels-Brown said she was astounded by the latest development.
“Parliament is the highest court in the land and, while there are rules known as standing orders made to secure the orderly procedure of Parliament’s business, it cannot relieve our leaders of the responsibility to provide the nation with full and timely disclosure in relation to matters of national interest,” she argued.