Dr. Rovan Locke on the Christopher “Dudus” Coke Saga in Jamaica 10 Years Later

Dr. Rovan Locke on the Christopher “Dudus” Coke Saga in Jamaica 10 Years Later

Christopher “Dudus” Coke

by Howard Campbell

KINGSTON, Jamaica – For one month in 2010, the world gazed at Jamaica for the wrong reasons. The land of reggae, Rasta and sun-kissed beaches was the site of a bloody standoff between security forces and gangs loyal to Christopher “Dudus” Coke, reputed Don of West Kingston.

The hostilities started May 23 when thugs loyal to Coke attacked four police stations in West Kingston, an enclave with fanatical ties to the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). Two of those precincts were burnt, triggering an aggressive response by a combined squad of police and military.

It is believed Coke fled West Kingston just before the incursion. One month later, he was captured, ending a bloody conflict that resulted in the deaths of 73 West Kingston residents and members of the security forces.

It also closed a nine-month lobby by the US government for Coke to be extradited to that country to face arms and drug smuggling charges.

Jamaican prime minister Bruce Golding was Member of Parliament for West Kingston. He strongly resisted authorizing Coke’s extradition, arguing that the US evidence against him was “obtained contrary to Jamaican law.”

That changed on May 16 when Peter Phillips, the Opposition People’s National Party’s spokesman on national security, disclosed in parliament that Golding’s administration had paid a Washington DC law firm, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips $50,000 to lobby the US government to drop its extradition request.

The following day, Golding affirmed Phillips’ revelation in parliament, apologized and said he would instruct Jamaican Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne, to authorize Coke’s extradition. That angered his supporters who erected barricades leading to the West Kingston stronghold of Tivoli Gardens where Coke reportedly had his headquarters.

Preparing for the worst, the government declared a State of Emergency on May 24.

Dr. Rovan Locke, former publisher of the South Florida-based Caribbean-American Commentary newspaper, is among those who believe Golding erred by not extraditing Coke. He compared his action to that of a controversial American President.

“I was stunned that he was willing to commit political suicide for allegedly the most feared Don in our political history. What was the political pact between Prime Minister Golding and Dudus Coke which triggered his decision to delay carrying out the extradition order which would have immediately led to Dudus’ flight to America? Locke wondered. “Golding engaged in similar delay tactics as Richard Nixon when he found out that those four men who broke into the National Democratic Party headquarters (in Washington DC) had a close relationship with his senior political advisers such as his Attorney General.”

Coke ruled West Kingston with an iron hand. He was the son of Lester “Jim Brown” Coke, an enforcer who had similar influence over West Kingston during the 1980s.

Jim Brown, a founder of the notorious Shower Posse that operated a drug ring in sections of the US, died mysteriously in 1992 while in police custody.

Coke was unceremoniously captured on June 23, 2010 during a police roadblock. He was wearing a wig in the presence of Al Miller, a popular pastor while on their way to the US Embassy in Kingston.

With days, he was extradited to the US and in August, 2011 pled guilty in the Federal District Court in New York to charges of “racketeering conspiracy for trafficking large quantities of marijuana and cocaine into the United States, and conspiracy to commit assault in aid of racketeering, for his approval of the stabbing attack of a marijuana dealer in New York City.”

On June 12, 2012 Coke was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Now 51, he is an inmate at Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, New Jersey; his release date is January 25, 2030.

Bruce Golding, who was elected Prime Minister in 2007, resigned that post in September, 2011. He keeps a low profile but recently led a team from the Organization of American States that monitored general elections in Guyana.

Coke still has diehard supporters in West Kingston which retains fierce loyalty to the JLP. The area is still prone to gang violence and remains one of Jamaica’s most disruptive communities.

 

 

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