KINGSTON, Jamaica CMC – Two weeks after the Constitutional Court ruled that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and other leading members of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) should answer questions from Dutch investigators under oath in open court, the ruling is being appealed.
The Dutch authorities want to question Prime Minister Simpson Miller, PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill, Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell, former legislator Colin Campbell and businessman Norton Hinds about a J$31 million (One Jamaica dollar = US$0.01 cents) donation to the party by Dutch company Trafigura Beheer.
The appeal was filed last Friday. However a date for the hearing has not been set.
The Court of Appeal has been asked to find that the Constitutional Court erred when it ruled that the Prime Minister and others were not entitled to diplomatic immunity and were therefore compellable to give evidence.
Last month, the Constitutional Court held that “there has been no proven or likely breach of any of the constitutional rights alleged to have been infringed by their being required to attend court and be questioned under oath”.
The ruling meant that the attempts to have the matter returned to chambers for the remainder of the proceedings to be heard in private have failed.
The last PNP administration was rocked by revelations in late 2006 that the party, while in government, had accepted financial donations from the Dutch-based company that trades a variety of commodities, including oil.
The disclosure led to speculation of possible undue influence being exerted by the company which was seeking to do business with the Jamaica government at the time of the donation.
The fall-out from the Trafigura scandal was widely regarded as a contributory factor in the PNP’s loss in the September, 2007 general election, which ushered in a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government for the first time in 18 years.
That JLP government led for most of its time in office by Bruce Golding, pushed through new legislation to facilitate the Dutch involvement in the subsequent investigation of the Trafigura affair.
The Golding administration, in turn, quickly lost popularity because of another scandal related to the American demand for the extradition of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke and the attempts to avert the extradition.
Following Golding’s resignation and the calling of early elections on December 29, 2011, the JLP was defeated and this saw the return of the PNP to government, with Simpson Miller again at the helm as Prime Minister.
All this time, the Trafigura investigation was being pursued by the Dutch authorities and has remained a headache for the PNP.