Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
National Security Minister Peter Bunting could be staring at a defamation suit from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) because of comments he made on a United States television documentary about the former JLP administration’s alleged involvement with convicted drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.
The comments, which have infuriated the JLP, were made during the airing of a feature on the life of Coke, carried on A&E Television Network’s Biography Channel series Gangsters: America’s Most Evil.
Addressing a Gleaner Editors’ Forum at the newspaper’s downtown Kingston offices yesterday, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness said he “listened to portions” of the documentary and was shocked to have heard “a particular statement where (Bunting) essentially said that the Government of Jamaica acted as an agent of Dudus”.
Said Holness: “That is, to me, a reprehensible statement.”
The party’s deputy leader, Audley Shaw, in quickly adding his voice to the concerns raised by Holness, said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if it is not really a libellous statement. I wouldn’t be surprised!”
Shaw further contended: “Not only did he say that, but he also attacked the Attorney General’s Department, specifically, along the same line.”
Later yesterday, attorney-at-law Bert Samuels, in responding to questions on whether defamation suits can be filed against an individual in Jamaica for utterances made outside of the island’s jurisdiction, said “once it is aired in the jurisdiction in Jamaica, it doesn’t matter”.
Added Samuels: “Because of how the media is now, you couldn’t say that you didn’t contemplate that it wouldn’t be used in Jamaica. A new dimension to the whole question of defamation is the Internet. This means that we all know wherever on the globe that we speak, the Internet brings it to the four corners of the Earth.”
Holness, in further criticising the comments made by the country’s national security minister, said Bunting had further dragged the image of the country through the mud while being interviewed for the documentary.
“If it is that he felt that his comments would have been damaging to the JLP, I wish to say, for the record, that his comments have damaged Jamaica’s image internationally,” the opposition leader said.
“I think that him appearing in it – and the statements that he has made as a representative of the Jamaican State – has done irreparable damage and he should consider retracting some of the statements that he has made.”
Holness said the party would be putting out a formal statement on the matter.
“We will be having persons speaking on all the news stations,” he said.
Last night, the JLP released a statement in which Opposition Spokesman on Justice Delroy Chuck reiterated the concerns put forward at the forum.
Hours before that release, rights lobby Citizens Action For Principle and Integrity (CAPI) issued a statement in which it questioned Bunting’s motive in participating in the documentary.
“As a senior government minister, Mr Bunting exercised poor judgement in participating in a video, the subject of which, he openly articulated a politically biased view. Mr Bunting allowed his partisan motivation to draw him into a video which portrays Jamaica in a negative light. This against the background of his colleague minister of tourism’s effort to sell Jamaica favourably,” argued CAPI’s co-convenor, Dennis Meadows.
Meadows, a former JLP senator, claimed further that Bunting’s “contribution in the production”, casts aspersion on the motives and integrity of former Prime Minister Golding and other members of Golding’s Cabinet, whose decisions were taken on behalf of the Government of Jamaica.
“As a member of the Cabinet, Minister Bunting’s objective at all times must be to defend and safeguard the good name of Jamaica, regardless of his political bias. While we may be partisan towards each other locally, to the world, we must be Jamaicans in defense of Jamaica,” he said.
CAPI called for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to publicly state whether she or the Cabinet approved Bunting’s participation in the documentary and what was the rationale of such a decision.
Efforts to get a comment from Bunting were unsuccessful as The Gleaner was told that he was in Cuba on government business.