GOLDING… to hold meetings with various groups islandwide

PRIME Minister Bruce Golding will be having meetings across the island to explain Government’s role in the controversial Manatt, Phelps and Phillips issue, in an apparent public relations campaign to win back support.

The minister responsible for information, Daryl Vaz who made the announcement at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press conference at Jamaica House, admitted that the approach to the Manatt issue was ill-conceived and handled poorly.

But while admitting that mistakes were made in the handling of the Manatt issue, he reiterated that Government had no contract with the United States law firm.

“At no time did the Government of Jamaica enter into any contractual or consultant arrangement with Harold Brady and Company Limited or Manatt, Phelps & Phillips,” Vaz told journalists.

He was responding to recent media revelations regarding e-mail correspondence between government officials, members of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the US legal firm, over an extended period.

He alleged that there was misrepresentation as it related to persons acting on behalf of Government and that the matter was being dealt with by the JLP’s disciplinary committee.

He added that the party (JLP) has already accepted responsibility for payments to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and suggested that information on Government’s activities can be verified through the Access to Information Act as “nothing to do with government can be hidden”.

Said Vaz: “There is nothing illegal or criminal in relation to the hiring of a lobby group, whether by the party or by the Government. What has happened is that the thing was ill-conceived, it was a mistake coupled with misrepresentation and it has been a complete, total mess-up from day one… I don’t think anybody would say otherwise.

The islandwide meetings, he said, will be convened with NGOs, the business community and civic society to address the concerns and questions regarding the Manatt issue.

“While politics is a big part of it there are major concerns, and I think it is important over the next few weeks that the prime minister address these groupings,” said Vaz.