Dr. Basil Wilson
The Trial After Dudus
By Basil Wilson
In any federal public trial in the United States, citizens of the Republic have the right to access and download verbatim transcripts. The entire trial of drug kingpins is available in the government database including trials of previously tried and convicted drug kingpins in Jamaica. All of these trials have taken place in the United States. That reflects poorly on the criminal justice system in Jamaica. The criminal justice system in Jamaica is like the West Indies Cricket team, everyone uses it as a beating stick.
Drug traffickers, firearms, dealers and extortionists carry out their wares with impunity. It is beneficial to the Caribbean that a close working relationship has emerged among law enforcement in the Caribbean, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The more developed countries have the resources and technological competences that are shared with Caribbean countries.
But equally important, if this alliance is to have reciprocal value, the prosecuting capacity of Caribbean countries must be strengthened or the relationship will merely breed a new form of dependency. The United States has ably demonstrated the elasticity of its reach to bring to justice crime syndicates that are bent on doing harm to United States citizens. The national interest of the U.S. and Jamaica will at times converge and at other times will diverge. The United States at this juncture is pre-occupied in pursuing the war on drugs and the war on terrorism. The latter is not that relevant to the Caribbean although there is evidence that off-shore banking in particular Caribbean islands have been used for the rinsing of drug money.
On shore, there are no terrorist organizations operating in the Caribbean that are driven by religious or secular ideological extremism. There is evidence that narco-trafficking has had a corrupting influence on the democratic process in the region. The example most cited is Surinam which is often defined as a state where narco-traffickers exercise a great deal of influence. In Trinidad and Tobago, the drug trade has been in part the cause of the acceleration in the crime rate. Even within regions, crime is a complex phenomenon. The crime situation in Jamaica has dissimilar roots in comparison to other Caribbean islands as it is rooted in political tribalism that raised its ugly head from the late 1960s.
The dynamics of crime in Jamaica has gone through changing phases from the 1960s to the present. Christopher Coke’s trial was to begin in the Southern District Court in Manhattan on September 12, 2011. Coke’s guilty plea means there will be no trial just a sentencing on December 8, 2011. During the time of the Coke indictment on August 28, 2009 to the expected beginning of the trial, bits of information have been leaked to the public or have been made available through the Federal Court system website. During the long battle over extradition from August 28, 2009 to June, 2010, information was available regarding co-conspirators who were co-operating with the United States governmental attorneys to give testimony against Coke and to have their sentences reduced. The list of culprits willing to testify concerning narcotics trafficking and unlicensed firearms trafficking was extensive.
The August 22 decision by Judge Patterson allowing intercepted conversations to be admitted during the trial has also been made available. The United States Attorney for the second District of New York, Preet Bharara, also filed a motion to the court to enable background information on Coke’s Organization to be admitted as evidence during the trial. The United States Attorneys had lined up expert witnesses who would give evidence about Coke’s drug activities in Jamaica and examples of his use of violence which was essential to the effectiveness of the criminal enterprise. It would have been fascinating to hear these eye-witnesses testify under oath and being cross-examined.
The motion to justify including the evidence at trial alluded to five murders committed by Coke. Reference is made to an incident in which one of Coke’s co-conspirators swindled him out of drug money and was murdered with a chain saw.The U.S. Attorney’s motion refers to Coke’s relationship with the Tivoli Gardens community. These references are cursory and the interest of the United States government was to remove Coke as an alleged drug kingpin feeding narcotics into the United States.
What should be the Jamaican government interest in these matters? The Manatt-Dudus Commission of Inquiry deteriorated into the theatre of the absurd. The lawyers had a field day, nothing was accomplished, and the report contributed nothing to advancing the interest of Jamaican society.The garrison quasi-state began to emerge from the 1960s and is very much an entrenched part of the Jamaican political landscape. But not all garrisons are alike. One of the urgent needs in Jamaica is to understand the complexity of garrisons and to what extent do they thwart wholesome community development?
Garrisons have evolved and even though the leaders of garrisons like Dudus are still functional as political activists, they also function independently and at cross-purposes with the political directorate.There is also a culture of dependency that has sprung up around garrison communities. Since sums of money are obtained through extortion, crack houses and other forms of skullduggery, it provides the community with a vested interest in criminality. The ‘don’ or garrison leaders dole out money, settle disputes and administer punishment. This quasi-state arrangement is an albatross around the neck of the Jamaican state.
The paradox is this was engineered by warlord politicians and sanctioned by both political parties. The state of emergency declared in May, 2010 reflected the severity of this national crisis.Jamaica’s interest in Dudus’ trial is not just about the conviction of a garrison leader. It is about the cultural decadence and dehumanization that have become a normal way of life in certain segments of an ailing society. Jamaica desperately needs a Truth Commission to expose the relationship between garrisons, political parties and the state.