Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding admitted on Oct. 2 that he had lost the confidence of Jamaicans to run the country and breached the island’s constitution in the scandal surrounding his handling of the extradition of the convicted drug lord and gang leader Christopher “Dudus” Coke.
“It was never about Coke’s guilt or innocence. It was about a breach of our constitution and had it been a person other than Coke it perhaps would never have become the cause celebre that it had turned out to be,” the prime minister told nationals in an eight-and-a-half minute broadcast.
A public inquiry revealed that information gleaned from wiretapping Coke’s interceptions were used in Coke’s extradition.
“We have since amended the Interception of Communications Act to permit in the future, the action that was taken in Coke’s case but which, at that time, was in violation of our Constitution,” Golding said.
“However, the entire episode has affected me deeply, and the perceptions that are held by some people have not been dispelled, notwithstanding the exhaustive deliberations of a Commission of Enquiry,” he added.
“I cannot allow the challenges we face and the issues that we as a people must confront to be smothered or overpowered by this saga and the emotions that they ignite. It would not be fair to my country; it would not be fair to my party,” he continued.
Golding said there were other considerations that led to his decision, stating that it is time for his generation to make way for younger people whose time has come, “who are more in sync with 21st century realities, whose vision can have a longer scope and who can bring new energy to the enormous tasks that confront us.”
He said the leaders of major countries around the world – for example, the United States, Britain, Canada, Mexico, Spain, the Netherlands, Finland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Australia, and New Zealand – are all more than 10 years younger than him.
“It is a worldwide trend, and we in Jamaica should not resist it,” the Jamaican prime minister said.
Golding, 63, a week ago, told his party’s central executive that he would not seek re-election to the leadership of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). He was first elected to Parliament almost 40 years ago.
He had been under pressure from supporters and critics alike to give reasons for his decision that has left the ruling party scrambling to find one among them to lead the fight for re-election in elections due next year.
Golding said he planned to address Jamaicans “one more time” before he leaves office.
Nominations for JLP leader close on Oct. 21. The party’s annual conference is scheduled to begin on Nov. 19.
“I told my central executive last Sunday that the next few weeks will be crucial not only for us as a party but for the country,” Golding said.
“The election of a new leader is a process that must be conducted in a mature, transparent and dignified manner. This is especially so since we form the government,” he added.
The main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) said Golding had little choice but to resign and step down due to a “complete loss of credibility.”
It dismissed the prime minister’s address as an attempt to revive the fortunes of the JLP ahead of the next general election.
“The truth is that the prime minister had to resign because of a complete loss of credibility; and, in those circumstances, you would have expected him to be more penitent and remorseful,” said PNP General Secretary Peter Bunting.
“He seemed instead to be attempting to use the occasion of resignation to give a fresh start to the over four-year-old JLP administration” Bunting added.
Raymond Pryce, president, PNP Patriots, also dismissed Golding’s speech.
“If his speech is sincere now, that means we will have to agree that the one in May of last year was insincere and those statements in the interim were insincere as well,” he said questioning some of the ruling party legislators who were still defending the Prime Minister over Coke affair.
“The prime minister attempts again in this statement to explain the issue. So it is unfortunately a further example of the bad pantomime becoming even worse toward the closing of the curtain,” he added.