Golding sticking by decision to resign

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Prime Minister and leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, Bruce Golding, has not changed his decision to resign as political leader in November despite the party’s central executive’s rejection of his decision Sunday, according to information minister Daryl Vaz.

Executive members said “no” to Golding’s planned resignation by unanimous vote hours after he informed them he will not seek re-election at the party’s annual general conference in November, and will step down as Prime Minister following the election of a new leader.

The opposition People’s National Party (PNP) promptly called for general elections. Its highest decision-making body, the National Executive Council, passed a resolution calling for all government ministers to resign and for fresh polls to be held.

General Secretary Peter Bunting said in a statement, “this reflects negatively on the stability of the country given the circumstances that have compelled this decision”.

Golding said he had planned to lead the party into a second term of government and demit office within two years after.

However, he explained, “the challenges of the last four years have taken their toll and it was appropriate now to make way for new leadership to continue the programs of economic recovery and transformation while mobilizing the party for victory in the next general elections.”

Throughout the country, the news was greeted with a mixture of shock, relief and skepticism.

Supporters in Golding’s West Kingston stronghold of Tivoli Gardens insisted the announcement was merely made for effect, and would not be acted on.

Some, like attorney-at-law K.D. Knight, said he has made the right decision.

Golding, 63, became Jamaica’s eighth prime minister in September 2007. Some political observers have speculated that his decision is linked to his handling of the extradition to the U.S. of Jamaican drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who is due to be sentenced in December after pleading guilty last month to one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering.

Golding resisted the U.S. extradition request for nine months, while U.S. law firm, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, lobbied Washington to have it dropped.

More than 70 people were killed in the subsequent standoff in Tivoli Gardens last year May, before the drug lord was extradited.

In the ensuing controversy, Golding offered to resign, but was told to stay on.

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