Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tivoli COE:That Vale Royal Alert

Date: August 24, 2009
Time Early afternoon
Place: Vale Royal
Topic: The Extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke
Participants: Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding
                     Chief Defence Staff, Major General Stewart Saunders
                    Commissioner of Police, Rear Adm. Hardley Lewin

Only PM and the CDS gave testimony at the Tivoli COE. No reason was given for the omission of the COP.
A review of the verbatim notes reveal some very interesting anomalies which will have to be resolved in the Commission’s Report.

For example:

i) Duration:

PM Golding testified that the meeting lasted “no more than five minutes"; whereas the CDS said that “.. we spoke with the PM for about fifteen or twenty minutes”.

 Lewin elsewhere has given the impression that the meeting was unexpectedly brief: “So the PM says” Well I have been briefed”. So we saluted smartly and we left”.

ii) Purpose:

All seem agreed on the main purpose of the meeting.

Golding…..”As I recall the Rear Admiral who was then the Commissioner of Police said that he was requested by the US authority to advise me that a request for Coke would be brought to Jamaica by a special agent the following day which would have meant the 25th August.”

iii) Substance:

According to the CDS….” We gave the Prime Minister a thorough brief so that he was aware of what the extradition, once signed, what was requested and what would have to be done.”

For Golding… “ there was no discussion about any strategy to execute the warrant because there was no warrant yet.” 

Lewin corroborated Golding’s recollection in that he “expected a serious hunkering down: the what ifs; what are your plans; what do you expect etc, etc, etc, in regard to this matter.”

There is cogent evidence of Christopher Coke being under surveillance for some two weeks prior to the Vale Royal Meeting. That surveillance party had the capability to effect a “soft detention” if and when required so to do. The “tip off” of Dudus put paid to that plan.

The Tivoli COE Report will have to assess the remifications that “soft detention” plan which would have facilitated Coke being detained, interviewed concerning an abduction matter in which he was “a person of interest”. Such arrest would have taken place outside of his stronghold of Tivoli Gardens.

Curiously, the Minister of National Security did not attend the said meeting-- said he was not invited. Moreover, he never enquired of the participants as to the substance of the discussions. Yet the Heads of the Security forces had visited his offices, alerted him to the impending request and he then phoned the Prime Minister to arrange the meeting.(For a comprehensive review of his role in this affair, see our post "Next-to Nil Nelson")

Monday, March 28, 2016

Tivoli COE: Next-to-Nil Nelson

Apart from making a phone call to Prime Mister Bruce Golding informing him that COP Hardley Lewin and CDS Major General Stuart Saunders was in his company and had certain information which would be on interest to him, what else did Minister of National Security, Hon. Dwight Nelson, do in respect of the extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke?

It is very difficult to avoid the answer: “Next to nothing”.

There is no evidence before the Tivoli COE from which one could even reasonably infer that Nelson made another phone call concerning the impending request.
Minister Nelson did not accompany the COP and the CDS to the Prime Minister and did not discuss with either of the heads of the security forces or the Prime Minister what took place at that meeting.
The Minister admitted that he absolutely did not have any responsibility in the extradition matters.
At no stage did the Minister of National Security get involved.
Nelson had no meeting in relation to operations in May 2010 with the security forces.
Had not requested or required to do anything in the role of Minister of National Security:

“ There was nothing I could do. I could not give any instructions to the Police. I had no authority to instruct the Police in the operations they were carrying out, and I certainly had no authority to instruct the Defence Force, because that is not within the realms of my responsibility. But I sat in a number of discussions with the Prime Minister, who as you can imagine whose authority supersede my authority as Minister of National Security.” 

Nelson was made aware of the incidents of May 2010 primarily by the Prime Minister with whom       he sat in a number of meetings in cabinet and less formally at Vale Royal.
Nelson, however, was not aware of a “soft plan” to detain Coke; not apprised of the use of mortars in the Tivoli operations; never made aware of any request for assistance from the US with aerial surveillance; not aware of any surveillance of a house in Belvedere where Coke was alleged to be.

Nelson’s participation in the hearings had a saving grace: exposure of the treatment of documents once the Minister has demitted office:

“Remember,you know, when I left the Ministry of National Security I did not take any letters, any files, any folders, I left everything there. I did not take a piece of paper out of the Ministry with me. I left everything there and prior to writing the statement, I spoke to the former Permanent Secretary and the Director of Security in the Ministry and my former secretary who is now secretary of the present Minister to determine whether any of those documents could be retrieved or existed still and was told, no, they were all destroyed. I was told by the secretary to the Minister and the Director of Security and the former Permanent Secretary that they destroyed everything even cabinet files.”

That archaic practice runs counter to any attempt at transparency and accountability. This “established practice” at the very minimum fuels the public perception of corruption by political office holders.

“I cannot recall” any lasting contribution of Nelson even in the Manatt COE. That indeed may be his legacy.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tivoli COE: COP Disconcertingly Disconnected

We have had the opportunity to scrutinize the verbatim notes of the testimony given before the Tivoli COE by the then Commissioner of Police (COP) Owen Ellington.We are somewhat bewildered by some of the revelations made to the COE.

Below are some of the most disconcerting:

  • Ellington acted as COP between November 7, 2009 to early April 2010 when he assumed the substantive position until retirement  in 2014. Before that he was DCP in charge of Operations.Yet he only became aware of the request pending for the extradition of Christopher "Dudus" Coke via media reports and knew nothing of any "soft detention " consideration.
  • On May 17, 2010 Ellington heard of the intention of the AG to sign the Authourity to Proceed via the national public broadcast made by then Prime Minister Bruce Golding.On hearing such news the COP-- who had been planning with the CDS Major General Stuart Saunders from mid November or early December 2009--did not immediately make contact with the CDS.
  • The then COP was not in a position to comment on whether the use of mortar was considered or in fact done.
  • He had intelligence that Coke was in Tivoli Gardens (TG) up until the Sunday afternoon before the joint military-police exercise; but did not seek to establish exactly where in TG Coke was located. Furthermore he revealed that he had no information about Coke's day-day movement.
  • The then COP did not see the need to place members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force at the end of the tunnels which had been previously identified as possible escape routes for Coke.
What is even more bewildering is the apparent breakdown in the relationship between the COP and the Prime Minister who, in addition to being Minister of Defence, had assumed the portfolio responsibility of the Minister of National Security:
  • Prime Minister Golding was not briefed about a Plan for the capture of Coke in January 2010--the date of "Operation Keywest".
  • The OPM received a copy of the Strategic Plan identified as Appendix "A"of a bundle of documents submitted by the COP Owen Ellington on January 05, 2011.
  • That bundle entitled "Operational Report  Extradition of Christopher "Dudus" Coke 2010" was prepared in August 2010.
It will be very interesting to see how the Commissioners will treat the evidence given by the then COP. Of critical importance is the issue of the nature and extent of the so-called "joint military-police operations."
Given the nature and scope of the resistance encountered, did the police cede total operational control to the army? 
Was there a conspiracy to exclude the political directorate from the loop, given the political affiliation and criminal reach of Christopher "Dudus" Coke aka "Presi"?

Tivoli COE: 3-month enquiry lasts 14 months

The Report of the Tivoli COE is expected around mid-April, some two (2) months after the end of the public hearings. Those public hearings took place over some fourteen (14) calendar months.
The Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Western Kingston Commission of Enquiry states iner alia:

2. The Commission shall use its best efforts to conclude its enquiry within three (3) months after it commences, and shall make a full and faithful report on and recommendations concerning the aforesaid matters, and transmit the same to His Excellency the Most Honourable Governor General, within two (2) months after concluding its enquiry.” 

Obviously there was the expectation that the public hearing would have lasted some three (3) consecutive calendar months from the date of commencement baring any unavoidable and unforeseeable delays. Similarly the Report should be submitted to the Governor- General within two (2) consecutive calendar months of concluding of its enquiry, baring any unavoidable and unforeseeable delays.

The Chairman of the Commission from very early in the exercise realized there was a problem in respect of the number of potential witnesses primarily from the security forces and the residents of Tivoli Gardens. An attempt was then made to cull the list of potential witness thereby calling those who would have added something to the evidence already adduced and to focus the testimonies on the particulars of the TOR.
Such attempts met with mixed results as both Attorneys and witnesses paid little or no regard to the strictures that the Chairman tried to impose. Being televised and rebroadcast there was added sensitivity not to be potrayed as limiting the evidence or unduly restricting the strategy of the attorneys.

The Chairman then resorted to an unusual (albeit practical) interpretation of the TOR by:
(i) inferring that the three months should not be taken to mean three consecutive calendar months;
(ii) that the three(3) months meant in fact ninety (90) non- consecutive working days .

That interpretation allowed the Chairman free reign to conduct the hearings at any period of time primarily, but not exclusively, at his convenience . There seems to have been serious underlying problems faced by the Commission Secretariat which severely impacted the logistics. (see our Tivoli COE: Impractical timelines)

In his concluding remarks the Chairman sought to justify his interpretation arguing that the tasks assigned could not have been completed within the time frame specified in the TOR.
Interestingly, and possibly not consistent with his unusual interpretation of the duration of the enquiry, he promised that the Commissioners would use their best efforts to submit the Report within the two (2) months specified. The expectation is that it will be two (2) consecutive calendar months and not sixty(60) non-consecutive working days.

It is untenable for a 3-month enquiry to last some 14 months due to the interpretation of it being 90 non-consecutive working days.