Former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding had a very public fall from grace. Much of it was linked to his affiliation with notorious don, drug lord and Shower Posse leader Christopher “Dudus” Coke. Here are 5 things to know about the fall of Prime Minister Bruce Golding after link to ‘Jamaican Godfather’ Dudus Coke.
In 2010, Jamaican authorities found themselves in a violent war with Coke’s followers when trying to arrest him and extradite him back to the United States. It was a year after the U.S. government first requested Coke be returned to America to face criminal charges, The New Yorker reported.
Golding – who was called a “criminal affiliate” of Coke’s by U.S. government officials – initially used his position in Parliament to refuse the extradition request. He said the U.S. had used illegal and warrantless wiretapping to gather evidence against Coke.
Golding was a member of the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), which ruled at the time. The U.S. said Coke used violence to help Golding and his party get elected to power.
“According to official U.S. accounts , Golding’s Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) was voted into power through ‘Coke’s murderous and strong-arm tactics,’” ABC News reported.
“We said to the United States, ‘These are violations that have taken place. We cannot abide these violations. We will hold the extradition request, we are not going to refuse [it]. We will hold it. We simply ask you to send a new request that is in conformity with our laws and our constitution.’ For a year, we kept putting that to the U.S. authorities, and the U.S. was stone deaf,” Golding told The New Yorker. “They were not prepared to countenance any suggestion that the process was wrong; they were not prepared to countenance anything other than, “Let us have Coke.” That was their position. Now, I thought it was wrong. I thought it was bullying of a country. And I was in a difficult position, because Coke was connected with my constituency and my party.”
The failure of Golding to extradite Coke led to a diplomatic crisis and immense violence, bloodshed and 76 documented killings. Coke’s supporters in West Kingston’s Tivoli Gardens neighborhood armed themselves with automatic weapons, grenades, etc. and barricaded the garrison neighborhood so authorities could not arrest Coke.
It is considered among the worst periods in Jamaican history and many innocent civilians are said to have been among those killed. According to ABC News, Golding only reversed course after intense pressure from the public, his party and political opponents.
However, Golding himself offered a different explanation.
“Well, that was because the country was in a crisis, the government was in a crisis, and I had to make a decision. I had to decide whether—much as I believed that the process that was used was wrong, that it was a violation of our laws and our constitution, that it was setting a dangerous precedent—I felt the broader interests of the country would not be served by stubbornly pursuing that position,” Golding told The New Yorker.
In The New Yorker’s report it states, “Hardley Lewin, the former head of Jamaica’s military, has suggested that when the extradition request finally went through, Golding’s administration leaked the news to Coke, giving him time to muster his forces.”
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In an attempt to fight the extradition, Golding hired Washington law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to lobby on Coke’s behalf and paid them a $50,000 fee.
According to ABC News, “Golding was criticized by the political opposition in March for allegedly hiring a lobbying firm in the U.S. to fight the extradition of Coke. Lobbying documents show that the Jamaican government did hire a firm to lobby the U.S. over the treaty dispute. Golding later admitted that he approved the hiring of the firm, but said the effort was on behalf of his political party and not the government.”
Though he resigned from Parliament in 2011 after Coke’s capture and extradition, Golding maintains he hadn’t spoken to the don since 2007 after he lied to him about whether several outlaws were hiding in Tivoli Gardens.
He told The New Yorker this and also doubled down on the claim during testimony about the incident before a commission assigned to investigate the matter in 2015, the Jamaica Observer reported.
“I myself had not spoken to Coke since December of 2007. I just insulated and isolated my own activities from what they were doing. They developed a community thing, like sports programs, back-to-school treats, Christmas treats, and so on. They did their thing and I did mine. I would do my back-to-school, my sports program, they did theirs,” Golding said.
He added: “In December of 2007, I received information that there were persons the police were seeking… who were hiding in West Kingston…. Now, Coke had sufficient influence that these persons were not likely to be in Tivoli Gardens without his knowledge. And I sent an emissary to him with very clear words that if these persons are being harbored in the community, it would put the entire community at risk, because if the security forces were to enter the community in search of these persons, there is the possibility of confrontation and there is the possibility of innocent people being killed. The message I got back from him was, ‘No, there is no such person being harbored in West Kingston.’ The police conducted an operation sometime afterward, and in that operation, I think, some of the persons were found, some of the persons were seen, some of them escaped. I felt betrayed because I was seeking to protect the residents, and it seemed to me that he was seeking to protect these criminals who came from outside,” Golding said. “And because of that … I basically cut him off, I basically said, ‘I will have nothing to do with him and his operation because if I cannot secure compliance on a simple matter that is intended to protect the citizens of the community, then I would have nothing to do with him.’ That was my position. And for the rest of the time, up until the time when he was extradited, I didn’t see him, I had no discussion with him.”