Jamaicans overseas and the extradition affair

BY Delano Franklyn

AS it is in Jamaica, the most talked about issue currently among Jamaicans living abroad is the extradition request for Christopher Coke, and how it has been, and is being handled by the Bruce Golding-led administration.

This issue has pushed the divestment of Air Jamaica to the number two position on the list of concerns by Jamaicans living outside Jamaica. While being severely critical of the burial of Air Jamaica by the Government, they have resigned their minds to the fact that despite the attempts of the pilots to keep Air Jamaica in Jamaican hands, the Government, as demanded by the International Monetary Fund, had no option, or was not prepared to consider any other option, but to conclude the deal with Caribbean Airlines.

My view that the extradition issue is the most talked about and the most burning issue in the Jamaican diasporic community comes about as a result of a series of discussions I recently had with Jamaicans living in Boston, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. They are of the view that the Government’s handling of this matter has created more confusion than clarity.

Questions being asked

* Why has the prime minister seen it fit to be leading the defence of a man who is being sought by the State Department for drug- and gun-running?

* Why has the prime minister not lived up to the promise he made when he formed the National Democratic Movement in 1995, that he would draw a clear and distinct line between alleged criminals, criminality and the operation of Government; that he would be new and different and do everything in his power to create a better Jamaica by standing up to alleged criminal elements in the society?

* Are the prime minister prepared to sacrifice his political career as a result of this extradition issue because the person for whom the extradition has been made is a leading member of his own constituency and an alleged ‘powerbroker’ in the party which he leads?

* Is the prime minister and the other members of his team afraid of what the person whose extradition request is being sought might possibly say about the involvement in criminal activities of any other well-known person or persons in Jamaica?

A number of Jamaicans living abroad are of the view that the extradition or non-extradition of the person ought not to be handled by the prime minister but should be left to the Courts. Some members of the Diaspora, certainly in the New York area, asked why some members of the JLP Government — for whom they have a lot of respect — such as Dr Kenneth Baugh, Delroy Chuck, Dwight Nelson, Edmund Bartlett, and Rudyard Spencer are silent on this matter.

Fearful to travel

The members of the diasporic community, rightly or wrongly, no different from persons living in Jamaica, are not making and seem not to be prepared to delink the issues. They see, for example, the revocation of the visa of Wayne Chen and the entertainers as being linked to the tightening of the screws against Jamaica and Jamaicans because of the Government’s refusal to honour the extradition request.

As a result of this view, many Jamaicans living overseas, as well as inside Jamaica are afraid to travel out of fear that they will be told that their visa has been revoked. One middle-class professional who has developed a distinguished career in the area of health in Baltimore, told me that she always visited Jamaica yearly, but she has no plans to visit until this impasse is settled.

A young man in the teaching profession in New York said that he will be visiting Jamaica in July this year and he is extremely fearful that his visa may be revoked when he is returning to the USA; and one Jamaican living in the Hartford area of Connecticut said he knows not what to make of the situation because, if ‘Mr Chen’s visa can be revoked without prior notice, so can mine’, so he is not taking the chance to travel to Jamaica any time soon.

The Government’s latest attempt to spin its way out of this issue, as reflected in Karl Samuda’s press release, has created more damage than the ‘damage control’ intended. Mr Golding in Parliament adamantly and arrogantly stated that the Government, other than what was being undertaken by the Ministry of Justice, had not made contact with the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

Karl Samuda has mashed down that lie. He said that Dr Ronald Robinson, a minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, had a ‘brief social encounter’ with a representative of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. Was Dr Robinson acting on a frolic of his own, and if not, on whose instruction was he acting? Was it on the advice of Dr Baugh, the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade; Mrs Dorothy Lightbourne, the minister of justice; or Mr Samuda, the general secretary of the JLP?

But there are more fundamental questions:

* Did Dr Robinson brief Mr Samuda on the outcome of this ‘brief encounter’?

* Did Mr Samuda brief the prime minister on the outcome of the brief encounter between Dr Robinson and the representative of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips?

These are not my questions. These are questions I was asked by influential members of the diasporic community.

Apparently, Mr Samuda did not brief the prime minister on these developments, which explains the PM’s denial that no contact had been made with this overseas firm. What does that say about Mr Golding’s leadership on a matter as important and as sensitive as this one?

Views on the PNP

While the brunt of the criticisms were levelled at the prime minister and the JLP, the People’s National Party (PNP) was also placed under the microscope. Members of the diasporic community expressed their support for the work of the Opposition in exposing the contradictions and conflicting stories of the JLP’s spin doctors, but were also forthright in raising their concerns and asking questions of the PNP.

* Why isn’t the leader, Portia Simpson Miller, saying more about the issue? As leader “we need to hear more from her”, one woman stated while preparing herself to enter the stadium to watch the Penn Relays.

* What about the PNP and its own relationship with party political persons who are allegedly involved in matters inimical to the interest of the country? another asked, during a discussion at the Cricket Hall of Fame in Hartford, Connecticut.

They also pointed out, and this created a long and sustained debate in Boston among the Jamaicans, the difference in how the party’s leadership dealt with the arrest of Kern Spencer and Patrick Roberts. Spencer has not been suspended from party-held positions, but Roberts has been. The Jamaican contingency in Boston with whom I spoke supports firm and principled, but consistent action against transgressors.

Those persons from inner-city communities or who are in touch with members of those communities in Jamaica spoke of the ‘unholy’ alliance which currently exists between PNP and JLP strongholds in promoting crime and criminality, and expressed the view that the PNP is not speaking out vigorously enough about this matter.

Conclusion

From my experience over the last few days within the Jamaican overseas community, it can be concluded that most of them are of the view that:

* The handling of the current extradition issue has caused and is causing tremendous embarrassment to the country.

* The prime minister and the JLP, wittingly or unwittingly, by their action or inaction seem to be promoting the interest of one man over and above the interest of the majority.

* This matter will not go away any time soon and the State Department will find ways and means to keep this matter on the frontburner, much to the detriment of Jamaica.

* The PNP and its leader need to be more vocal in the condemnation of the links between alleged criminals and the party political system.

The Government has seriously underestimated the impact this issue is having on the character and credibility of decent, law-abiding citizens, inside and outside of Jamaica. It has sharply brought into focus the links between crime, criminality, alleged criminals, and the party political process.

The political parties will not be able to easily attract to their ranks the best and most decent among the people if they are perceived as defending persons who are being sought for drug- and gun-running. Regrettably, Mr Golding, who some thought — 15 years ago when he formed the NDM — would have been in the forefront of this charge appears to be a victim of the circumstances of his own constituency.

— Delano Franklyn is an attorney-at-law and a member of the People’s National Party

Some members of the Diaspora in the New York asked why are some members of the JLP Government — for whom they have a lot of respect — such as (from left) Dr Kenneth Baugh, Delroy Chuck, Dwight Nelson, Edmund Bartlett, and Rudyard Spencer silent on the extradition matter.

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