Jamaican prime minister rejects calls to resign

KINGSTON, Jamaica The general secretary of the Jamaica Labor Party downplayed a growing scandal over Prime Minister Bruce Golding's disclosure last week that he authorized the hiring of a U.S. lobbying firm to persuade Washington to drop its extradition request for Christopher "Dudus" Coke.

"We realize that there has been a fundamental weakness in which we have communicated the facts of this issue," Karl Samuda said following an emergency meeting of the party's executive committee at a hotel in the resort city of Ocho Rios. "However, we do not feel that that rises to the level that requires the resignation of the prime minister."

Golding did not appear at the news conference that aimed to defuse the party's biggest political crisis since he took office in 2007 on pledges to fight corruption and this Caribbean island's soaring homicide rates.

Gang leaders in Jamaica have loose allegiances to both major parties dating back to the 1970s, when political factions provided guns to intimidate elections rivals.

Coke presides over a Kingston neighborhood that Golding represents in parliament, and the case has raised questions about government ties to organize crime.

The U.S. government filed its request in August for Coke, who allegedly oversees the distribution of cocaine in the New York area and the smuggling of weapons back to Jamaica as the reputed leader of the notorious "Shower Posse" gang. The U.S. Justice Department named him to a list of the world's most dangerous drug kingpins.

Coke has lived openly in his barricaded Tivoli Gardens neighborhood as Golding has led opposition to the extradition request, claiming the indictment in the U.S. Southern District of New York is based on illegal wiretap evidence.

The opposition parties and public sector groups that called for Golding's resignation this week were outraged by the acknowledgment that he authorized the campaign involving the Los Angeles-based firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

Golding said he was being honest when he denied any government role in the contract two months earlier because he sanctioned the effort as party leader, and not prime minister.

"I am very disappointed to hear the JLP defending the indefensible," said Trevor Munroe, a member of the main opposition People's National Party.

Coke's father was Lester Lloyd Coke, better known as Jim Brown, a leader of the Shower Posse during the 1980s cocaine wars, during which the FBI blamed the drug gang for 1,400 murders on the U.S. East Coast. U.S. prosecutors say Christopher Coke took over the organization following his father's death in 1992.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.