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The $50,000 question Add to ...

As Jamaican security forces continue to hunt for alleged drug lord Christopher (Dudus) Coke, Peter Bunting, Jamaica's official opposition critic for national security, has called for an end to the political culture that gave rise to Mr. Coke and his predecessors. He explains to Greg McArthur how his own party, the People's National Party, has formed regrettable pacts with some of the island's worst characters in order to secure votes.

How did Christopher Coke come to wield so much power within the government that the ruling party would pay $50,000 to hire lobbyists to persuade the United States to halt his extradition?

I guess that's the $50,000 question. The Shower Posse has a network into the community. It permeates almost every aspect of life in those communities, and because its been there for so long, it has become the sort of authority - almost a replacement for state authority. The police are essentially excluded from conducting operations within Tivoli Gardens... The Shower Posse dispenses justice within the community. If anyone has an issue with crime, or rape, robbery or murder - they don't take that to the police for resolution within the justice system. They take it to the "Don"... There has been a real value distortion in those communities over a long time and has brought us to where we are now.

What do you think it was that forced Jamaica's Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, to turn his back on that allegiance with the Shower Posse?

First of all, there was pressure from the United States for the government to live up to its obligations under its treaties. The opposition did a lot of investigative work to uncover the government's underhanded attempts to subvert due process, by hiring a lobbyist to get the U.S. government to ... withdraw the extradition, or put it on ice. There was a huge outcry from civil society. For example, the umbrella group of church organizations called for [the Prime Minister's]resignation.

There was an editorial about you in the Jamaica Gleaner. They wrote that you, "implicitly acknowledged [your]party's past complicity in this nasty underbelly of the country's politics in a parliamentary speech this month, in which [you]pledged the People's National Party's disassociation from any alliance, dependency or common cause with organized crime and gang culture." Has your own party been guilty historically of getting into bed with the wrong people for political purposes?

Yes. That is correct. The truth is that, going back to the late sixties, early seventies, in the Cold War era, the PNP was seen as more of a left, socialist party, and the JLP was seen as a more right, capitalist party. I think people justified associations with gangs in those days as - there was sort of an ideological justification for it. I guess they thought of themselves as freedom fighters, or community defenders.... However, once we moved beyond the decade of the seventies, it quickly deteriorated. Gangs quickly became independent. They got into drug smuggling, gun running. Their sources of income far exceeded whatever support they got from a party - even a party in government.

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