Monday, May 17, 2010

Jamaica On Edge

UPDATE: Bruce apologizes, Jamaicans react.
Jamaica is on edge today as Prime Minister Bruce Golding has acquiesced to pressure by the US to extradite alleged drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke. (For more background on this case, see ForwardEver's March 19 post)

Golding acknowledged before Jamaican Parliament last week that he personally directed his Labor Party officials to hire a US law firm to pressure the Obama administration to drop its politically sensitive extradition bid. Today Golding addressed the nation on the matter and offered his apology. There were calls from the opposition People's National Party for Golding to step down amid the implication that he went to extraordinary means to protect a reputed gang leader.

After Golding's speech merchants in downtown Kingston began closing up shop and heading for safer territory, fearing a reprisal by Coke's Tivoli Gardens area supporters. The tense situation was summed up by Active Voice blog in a post that read:

Today was the most unsettling exciting day in the last decade or so. Around 3 pm started to hear rumours that 'war' was going to break out because the Prime Minister was going to announce that the extradition proceedings agaist 'Dudus' Coke were going forward. A feeling of panic began to spread and there was a stampede to get out of downtown where the rumours started circulating around 11 in the morning. By mid-afternoon everyone was on the road trying to reach a safe place. Top 10 ways to get home quickly proclaimed a blog... ... At the appointed hour Bruce Golding addressed the nation looking suitably contrite and apologizing profusely. Then he announced that the Attorney General was going to sign the relevant papers so that the extradition could proceed. Dudus' lawyer, Tom Tavares-Finson was reputed to be livid with anger; he would defend his client in court he said.

One Jamaica Observer commenter lamented:  
Enough of the gangster, garison style politics. Too many people are being murdered daily, the country is out of control, theres no central political authority, or security, or justice. The country is being ran by political dons.

While another wryly notes: 
As the advice goes: "When you mess up, ‘fess up and then dress up." Heard the deep regret and the apologies; next steps; the implied directive for us to reflect on the BG that promised to uphold high standards … The PM ended with a prayer for God’s blessing upon us. (Sigh) We need it.  

It has been a tough few moths for Jamaica with an up-tick in violence that has affected several reggae entertainers (including Mad Cobra and the singing group Voice Mail) on-top of the cancellation of a hand-full of high profile artist visas. According to the Jamaican Star, artists lead by Shaggy have organized a "Walk For Peace" this Sunday May 23 to confront the issues of violence that have been plaguing the island.