Beleaguered PM’s resignation offer rejected

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Prime Minister Bruce Golding has offered to resign from office, but his offer was rejected by his ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

The announcement was made by JLP General Secretary Karl Samuda and Chairman Dr. Ken Baugh at a press conference last Sunday, during a break in a JLP Central Executive meeting. The meeting was one of several held last weekend as Golding met with party officials to determine his political future, following the fallout that originated from the request by the United States for the extradition of one of his constituents, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, to face drug and gun charges.

As Golding stayed in the meeting room, Baugh said the Prime Minister had offered to resign because it was “the right thing to do” in the circumstances.

However, according to Samuda, members of the executive “have expressed themselves fully and they have unanimously committed themselves to support our leader and they have sought to convince him that the proper thing to do is remain as JLP leader and Prime Minister”.

Calls for Golding to step down have arisen since he admitted to Parliament, after weeks of distancing himself and his government from the hiring of U.S. law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips to intervene in the Dudus matter, that he had in fact sanctioned it in his capacity as JLP leader.

But Samuda insisted that the party was satisfied that “the allegations against him do not rise nearly to the level that would necessitate him resigning as leader of the party or as Prime Minister of the country”.

“We feel very strongly that, having reviewed all the details and the statements made and the facts available to us, that the Prime Minister did not lie to the people of Jamaica,” said Samuda.

Samuda admitted that there was “a fundamental weakness” in the way the facts were communicated to the public, saying that “for that, we may stand indicted”. But he stopped short of offering any apology.

He also reiterated Golding’s position that it was the JLP that hired and paid Manatt, Phelps & Phillips – even though the firm has insisted that the government was its client – and contended that the lawyers’ engagement was not to prevent Coke’s extradition, but to engage the U.S. government in dialogue regarding the use of wiretapping to obtain evidence against the alleged guns and drugs trafficker.

“The purpose of that engagement was to establish a meaningful dialogue which was missing. There was obvious conflict and what we sought to do was to get assistance to influence those decision makers as to how best to approach the breach which had been committed by the U.S. Justice Department in obtaining information which was to be used for evidential purposes,” said Samuda.

Golding’s critics reacted harshly to the statements made at the press conference.

Opposition leader Portia Simpson-Miller said the statements made by Samuda and Baugh “reflect an outrageous contempt and disregard for the Jamaican people and the powerful positions expressed by several national and civil-society groups”.

Michael Williams, General Secretary of the National Democratic Movement (NDM) which Golding formed in 1995 before returning to the JLP, said the ruling party’s stance would “bring Jamaica in the eyes of the world as a state that supports donmanship and gangsterism”.

Williams has urged members of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) to stop contributing to the JLP, insisting that the party is “not worthy”.

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