The government of Jamaica has decided to approve the request from the United States for the extradition of Christopher Dudus Coke on drugs and gun charges. The decision ends 9 months of tension between the two countries over the status of the request.
For a detailed history of the Christopher Dudus Coke controversy see the following articles:
- Christopher Dudus Coke: Wanted
- Will Christopher Dudus Coke be Extradited
- Christopher Dudus Coke: Still Wanted
In a speech televised to the Jamaican nation on May 17, 2010 the Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, said in part:
I crave your understanding, the government has never refused... never refused... the request for the extradition of Christopher Coke. It has simply asked the US authorities to provide additional information that would enable the Minister to issue the authorization in compliance with the terms of the treaty. In the controversy that has ensued, we sought the opinion of one of Jamaica's most eminent lawyers, Dr. Lloyd Barnett, who advised that the issues involved were not sufficiently settled in law, and therefore the Attorney-General should seek a declaration from the Court before exercising her authority.
I wrestled with the potential conflict between the issues of non-compliance with the terms of the treaty and the unavoidable perception that because Coke is associated with my constituency, the government's position was politically contrived. I felt that the concepts of fairness and justice should not be sacrificed in order to avoid that perception. In the final analysis, however, that must be weighed against the public mistrust that this matter has evoked and the destabilizing effect it is having on the nation's business. Accordingly, the Minister of Justice, in consideration of all the factors, will sign the authorization for the extradition process to commence.
The very next morning Jamaica's Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne signed the extradition order and passed it to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewelyn who immediately secured the warrant for Coke's arrest from the court.
Senator Tom Tavares-Finson who had acted as Christopher Coke's lawyer, served notice that he will be withdrawing as Coke's attorney. He had been criticized publicly for defending Coke while at the same time holding a position in the government. He will be replaced by attorneys, Jacqueline Samuels Brown and Paul Beswick.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding had come under heavy criticism for his government's delay in signing the extradition request, which had been issued in August 2009. It was evident that his procrastination was a source of frustration for the American authorities which issued a scathing report on Jamaica's role in the international drug trade.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding also faced domestic pressure from the parliamentary opposition the People's National Party (PNP) and many other organizations which felt that he was doing everything he could to protect Christopher Dudus Coke for political reasons. Coke was not only a strong supporter of the Prime Minister's party, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), but was also in control of the Prime Minister's constituency of Tivoli Gardens where he (Coke) is regarded as a "Don" and is unanimously respected and beloved by the people who live there.
In fact, there lies a huge problem for the government if and when they attempt to execute the arrest warrant. There is bound to be civil unrest and quite possibly armed opposition from the people of Tivoli Gardens if the security forces attempt to take Christopher Dudus Coke into custody.
According to Reneto Adams, a retired senior superintendent of police, even if Coke could be taken into custody there would have to be massive security arrangements put in place:
"If he is arrested, the Government would have to deploy added security in key strategic places. You would also have to house him at Up Park Camp and certain routes on which he would be driving would have to be closed down. We are looking at an extensive operation because this man has great influence," said Adams.
"It will be a maximum security plan with all kinds of persons involved: people from the intelligence arena, people from the strike force, obviously some snipers will be in place," he added.
In the meantime residents of Tivoli Gardens are preparing for the worst. Upon hearing of the arrest warrant for Christopher Dudus Coke, Tivoli Gardens has been turned into a fortified community with roadblocks erected at all main entrance points. However there has been no signs of violence so far and after initial apprehension it appears as if businesses in the downtown area are open.....at least for now.