There was nuff excitement in the precincts of Parliament Tuesday gone (Oct 3, ’06). While the MP’s of the governing party were inside the House debating a motion to censure Opposition MP Karl Samuda (for being Karl Samuda and running off his mouth), the Leader of the Opposition walked out of the debate and held a press conference to announce that the recent PNP party conference had been funded using J$ 31 million in monies obtained from the notorious Dutch oil trader, Trafigura.
He implied that these were funds improperly obtained as part of Jamaica’s long standing oil deal with Nigeria, and he called on the Government to resign.
All very exciting, and the timing was perfect (for the evening news). In addition to his allegations, Bruce Golding also had evidence – cancelled cheques signed by 2 Cabinet Ministers, Phillip Paulwell and Colin Campbell (both Team Portia members, you will recall).
By Wednesday morning, the whole episode was looking distinctly duller, and far from resigning, the Cabinet Ministers in question were busy with their lawyers, preparing (1) to find out how/why the bank had provided the information to the JLP (2) to sue the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Golding, lacking Samuda’s native caution, had made the libelous statements outside of the House and therefore could not claim his Parliamentary privileges.
Turns out that Trafigura, a company which has been trading Nigerian oil for Jamaica through both PNP and JLP administrations (yes, child, the JLP were once in power, long, long, ago…), had made a contribution to the PNP’s campaign financing and the PNP had used this money to fund the party conference.
Not quite the thrilling, government-crashing-to-its-knees story we had been led to believe on Tuesday night.
All day Wednesday, young male supporters of both parties were covering all the bases on the talk shows (these must be the parasites of whom Dr. Munroe speaks because I don’t know which business place allows employees to spend the whole morning on the phone chatting to talk show hosts about the issues of the day……). Bruce Golding and Karl Samuda for the JLP, and Bobby Pickersgill for the PNP also talked up a storm.
How it’s looking this morning ?
A. General consensus that it “doesn’t look good for the PNP to be getting contributions from a foreign company that does business with the Government”.
B. Nothing illegal took place.
C. Both parties should work together to push campaign finance reform through the House with all possible dispatch.
D. Nothing will be done because neither party has any intention of revealing who contributes to their party’s finances.
E. The PNP has outflanked the JLP as per usual…..
Who’s disappointed ?
A. Voters who would prefer that the PNP not win a fifth term (and this apparently includes those members of the PNP who don’t like having a black, working class woman as leader)
B. Voters (myself included) who thought Bruce Golding was both intelligent and thoughtful (and would never have called that press conference without having party lawyers and strategists cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s….)
C. Fight fans who hate to watch knock outs and prefer matches to go at least five rounds
Update/Saturday, October 7
There’s been a lot of backing and forthing, fussing in the Senate, more accusations and counter accusations. Everyone (PNP, JLP, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Jamaicans for Justice) has climbed up on their high horse and look like staying there over the weekend. Sonia Christie, a senior employee of the bank in question (First Caribbean International Bank) has either been fired (according to the Gleaner) or sent on leave (according to the Observer).
Only one piece of news so far : Trafigura denies that it made a donation and says that the funds were part of a “commercial transaction”. Last night on “Nationwide”, Cliff Hughes pointed out that there are OECD guidelines for the conduct of international businesses headquartered in OECD countries (Trafigura Beheer B.V. is Dutch). Giving a donation to the ruling political party of a country you do business with, appears to constitute bribery under these guidelines, hence Trafigura’s denial that it had made such a donation…..Well, at least Trafigura seems to know what their “donation” to the PNP was for…..
Minister Colin Campbell has asked Trafigura to “clarify” their statement. Is he hoping they will admit it was a bribe ? Can Trafigura put the genie back in the bottle ? Will we all have forgotten about it by next week Tuesday ? After all, the Koreans are shooting at each other across the border in anticipation of North Korea’s nuclear tests; Russia and Georgia are daggers drawn; and U.S. Secretary of State Condolleeza Rice has been in the Middle East rallying support for “action” against Iran ………..
[posted with ecto]