|High hopes in Jamaica’s coalition of civil-society|
|Friday, 02 July 2010 11:31|
After months of tension, drama and violence; culminating in a state of emergency, the eventual capture of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke was something of an anti-climax. Were it not for the publicity given to Coke’s silly disguise (weird wig, hat and women’s glasses), and the involvement of the Rev. Al Miller who was taking Coke to turn himself in to the US Embassy in Kingston, the much anticipated capture of Coke would have almost been boring news.
However, despite the relative lack of drama related to Coke’s capture, we should be grateful that there was not the predicted violence. Coke himself was reported to be relieved that he came to no personal harm, as his admirers in west Kingston did. For this, praise should be allotted to the Jamaican security forces, especially members of the Jamaica Defense Force who exercised utmost caution to protect Coke after his arrest until he was flown from Jamaica in the possession of US Marshals.
Of course there are many more eagerly awaited chapters to be written in this saga. However, note must be taken of some significant factors that arose in Jamaica in recent weeks as the US government’s request for the extradition of Coke built to a climax.
Of all these factors, probably the most significant was the strong and effective coalition of Jamaican civil society that brought unforeseen pressure to bear on a government and a prime minister who seemed to have taken Jamaicans, at best for granted, and at worst for fools. This civil coalition of ordinary citizens, private sector, church, media, some politicians, the Jamaican Diaspora, etc., was relentless in its demand that Bruce Golding and his government act forthrightly in the extradition matter. The pressure brought about by this civil coalition almost resulted in Golding’s resignation.
However, it is still unexplained, and must be explained, why Golding sanctioned members of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) to contract the US law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to intervene with the US government in the extradition matter? Why did Golding originally deny knowledge of any arrangement with Manatt? Why did he embark on the charade of having JLP chairman Karl Samuda undertake an investigation into the JLP link with Manatt when he knew what was going on? Why did he procrastinat in authorizing the extradition of Coke? Why did he so suddenly and surprisingly, after all the denials, tell the Jamaican parliament and people that it was he who sanctioned the contact with Manatt? All these are questions still to be answered, regardless of Coke’s capture and extradition.
In fact, questions still loom as to whether Golding’s sudden confession of his involvement with Manatt and his decision to authorize Coke’s extradition was orchestrated by a higher authority, one probably outside Jamaica. There are those who firmly believe that throughout the entire extradition drama Golding was not acting independently. If he was indeed acting independently, then he seriously miscalculated the reaction of the Jamaican people, never foresaw such an effective coalition of the Jamaican civil-society, which has seriously whittled away at his integrity.
It is doubtful that Golding, his government, or any future Jamaican leader or government will again take the Jamaican people for granted. Remarkably, the Jamaican people almost pulled off a bloodless coup (before the assault on Tivoli Gardens). Every Jamaican politician should now know that the people they seek to serve hold real power.
The past few weeks also stressed the passion of Jamaicans to have their security forces take aggressive measures to dismantle the criminal elements that has been crippling the society. The assault on Tivoli Gardens and other criminal infested communities show that the criminal elements can be defeated, especially if their leaders are removed.
Another factor disclosed is the confirmation that there are big interests behind Jamaica’s criminal network that do not live among the residents of so-called garrison communities. The Jamaican police reported there are some 20 wealthy Jamaicans who are wanted for questioning about the source of their wealth. The wealth of some Jamaicans was always subject to rumors; now the facts are coming out.
There is also the growing desire for Coke to reveal his criminal affiliates, regardless of whether they are in political office or in the upper echelons of society.
Importantly, the past few weeks have shown that most Jamaicans are fed up with the affiliation between politicians and the criminal elements. A loud message has been sent: If crime is to be effectively eliminated from the Jamaican society there must be a break between politicians and criminals.
The lessons learned in recent weeks must now be built on. There is a long way to go to strengthen the Jamaican society, but hope lies in this evidence of a formidable coalition of the civil-society. This coalition must not only keep the government honest, but assist it in finding ways to alleviate the scourge of poverty that has been the breeding ground for crime and corruption in Jamaica.