US takes offence at Golding’s aggression claim

(Jamaica Gleaner) The United States Embassy in Kingston has finally responded to Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s allegation that its officials were, among other things, “belligerent and aggressive” in diplomatic talks relating to the extradition request for accused drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.

Golding had criticised the embassy during testimony at the Manatt-Dudus commission of enquiry.

Yesterday the embassy broke a three-month silence with a terse note declaring it was affronted by the characterisations “aggressive”, “belligerent” and “harassing,” all of which were used by Golding while being cross-examined at the enquiry.

The public statement sounding the US Embassy’s displeasure comes at a time when the Jamaican and US authorities have been at pains to convince the populace that the relationship between the two countries was anything but strained.

“The embassy takes exception to this characterisation and affirms that its communications with all members of the Government of Jamaica were professionally courteous throughout,” the statement declared.

Promise kept

As it had promised, the US Embassy put out its statement two weeks after the three-member commission released its report and with the resulting furore beginning to wane.

“The Embassy of the United States of America disagrees with comments made during the Manatt, Phelps [& Phillips] hearing commission of enquiry into the extradition request for Christopher Coke that characterised the US mission personnel as aggressive, belligerent or harassing in communication with members of the Government of Jamaica during deliberation surrounding the extradition of Mr Coke,” the embassy stated.

In September 2010, Golding suggested that Jamaica was being stonewalled by US officials at the embassy during talks over the Coke extradition request, which prompted the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to engage the services of US law firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips.

But it was during one of his fierce verbal clashes with senior attorney for the People’s National Party K.D. Knight that Golding employed the offending adjectives.

Inflexible position

The prime minister said he had formed the view, between August 25, 2009 – when the extradition request came – and the first week of September that the US had taken an inflexible position on the issue.

As a result, he said he accepted the proposal from attorney Harold Brady to seek outside assistance on September 6, 2009.

Golding said that it was his view, based on “one and two” telephone calls on the issue among Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Ken Baugh, and chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Kingston, Isiah Parnell, that the discussions were heading “nowhere”.

He charged that Lightbourne was being harassed by Parnell to sign the authority to proceed with the extradition process against Coke, an ardent JLP supporter and former don of the Tivoli Gardens community in Golding’s West Kingston constituency.

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