Manatt saga resurfaces

(Jamaica Gleaner) – The Manatt, Phelps & Phillips saga has been brought back to life with news surfacing on Wednesday, by way of United States publication AM Law Daily, that the law firm was paid an additional US$15,000 by local attorney-at-law Harold Brady on March 19 this year.  The money was reportedly disbursed a month after Manatt claimed it had severed ties with the Jamaican government.

The latest development has strengthened the resolve of the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) that nothing less than a commission of enquiry can unearth the facts in the Manatt maze.

“If we are to bring closure to this question, and if we are to be able to chart an effective path to a different set of governance structures with different levels of accountability, and if we are to revive public trust, then the government cannot do anything less than appoint a full commission of enquiry,” declared Dr Peter Phillips, chairman of the PNP’s communication commission.

Phillips told The Gleaner yesterday that the opposition would continue to press for an effective response from the government.

“The government just needs to simply face the reality that there is going to be a continuing insistence by not only the opposition, but by many other civic organisations who are going to be insisting that closure be brought to this issue,” he said.

When contacted for a response, Information Minister Daryl Vaz said he was in a meeting. Subsequent calls to his cellphone went to voice mail.

According to the AM Law Daily, in a new Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filing with the US Justice Department, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips reported that it got US$15,000 more for lobbying work done on behalf of the Government of Jamaica.

AM Law Daily reported that, in a 24-page supplemental filing dated June 30, 2010, the activities performed under the firm’s agreement with Jamaica included discussions with Molly Warlow, director of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, about extradition issues.

Manatt lawyers met Warlow on December 17, 2009 to discuss “extradition treaty process requirements,“ the filing stated.

The US law firm continues to distance itself from claims that it was hired by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to lobby US government officials on the Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke extradition dispute.

“It’s important to note that the reason the filing has no mention of anything done for Christopher Coke is that Manatt did not represent Mr Coke, and we were not retained to lobby the US government in connection with the Coke matter,” wrote Manatt spokesman, Lawrence Martinez, in an email response to the AM Law Daily.

In May, under pressure from civil society and sector groups to resign as a result of his handling of the Manatt and Dudus extradition issues, a seemingly remorseful Prime Minister Bruce Golding apologised to Jamaicans for how the “entire affair” was dealt with.

Coke has since been extradited to the US, after bloody gun battles that left more that 70 people dead.

Golding, who is leader of the JLP had also conceded that he should have divulged his party’s initiative to engage the services of Manatt, when he denied in Parliament that the government had engaged the US law firm.

In September last year, the JLP paid Manatt US$50,000 for its lobbying effort.

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