That extradition of ‘Dudus’ Coke 10 years ago

THE international media swooped on Kingston shortly after May 17, 2010 when Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced in Parliament that he would instruct Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne to authorise extradition of west Kingston Don, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, to the United States.

Golding was elected prime minister in 2007. For nine months he had defied a request from the US Government to extradite Coke to face arms and drug smuggling charges.

His decision sparked bloody fighting between security forces and gunmen loyal to Coke in west Kingston, for which Golding was Member of Parliament. The battle took place mainly in Tivoli Gardens, where Coke reportedly had his headquarters.

That west Kingston enclave became the subject of feature stories on major broadcast outlets such as CNN and ABC, as well as publications like The New York Times and The Guardian in England.

Garth Rose covered the developments in Jamaica for Caribbean National Weekly (CNW), a popular tabloid in South Florida. He reflected on a knotty situation that ended in Coke’s capture one month after the fighting, and which forced Golding to resign one year later.

“I followed the Dudus extradition drama very closely as it was necessary to report on the situation in the CNW.

“It is difficult to say if Golding made the right decision. If, as he stated, there was an extradition agreement between the US and Jamaica not to extradite unless agreed on by the Jamaica Government, he then had the right to stand his ground. But then the US with its might and with its control of foreign aid to Jamaica from multinationals would have squeezed him hard. In the end, I don’t think he had much alternative but to give in to the US demands,” Rose reasoned.

Rose, who was acting general manager at Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation in the late 1980s, argued that the Golding Administration blundered badly in a particular area.

“I think if the Government had information that ‘Dudus’ was in a house in Tivoli, they could have focused on intercepting and apprehending him in that house rather than ordering the police and the army to raid the entire Tivoli community. Such a wide-scale incursion was guaranteed to result in the death of innocent citizens. That’s the real tragedy. Innocent lives were lost when that was certainly not necessary,” he said.

Rovan Locke was publisher of Caribbean-American Commentary, a bimonthly broadsheet that also serviced the South Florida region. He believes Golding’s stance that the US was encroaching on Jamaica’s rights as a sovereign nation by demanding Coke’s extradition, was baseless.

“He held it up for more than six months. What is most astounding is that as the prime minister of Jamaica he went to Gordon House and defended Dudus Coke’s inalienable constitutional rights against a foreign power which Jamaica has an extradition treaty with for over a quarter century. I was stunned that he was willing to commit political suicide for allegedly the most feared don in our political history,” Locke told the Jamaica Observer.

Coke, who allegedly fled Tivoli Gardens before the fighting which resulted in over 70 deaths, was captured on June 23. Disguised in a wig, he was arrested in Kingston in the company of the Reverend Al Miller.

He was extradited within days and in August 2011, pleaded guilty to several charges, including conspiracy for trafficking large quantities of marijuana and cocaine into the United States, and conspiracy to commit assault in aid of racketeering.

On June 12, 2012 Coke was sentenced to 23 years in prison. The once-feared enforcer is currently an inmate at FCI Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution, in Fort Dix, New Jersey.


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