Home > HUAWEI > Newsmaker of the Week: Damning IC report on FLA claims Montague

Newsmaker of the Week: Damning IC report on FLA claims Montague

This week's featured development as Newsmaker of the Week just ended is the damning Integrity Commission reportwhich cited that two former ministers of national security, Robert Montague of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and Peter Bunting of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), approved the issuance of firearm licences on appeal, to persons with significant criminal traces.

The Integrity Commission's draft report dubbed, “Special Report of Investigation - Allegations Concerning Acts of Impropriety, Irregularity and Corruption in the Issuance of Firearm User Licences to Persons of 'Questionable Character'," also indicates that former Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) Deputy Chairman, Dennis Meadows, could face charges relative to the circumstances behind the issuance of a firearm licence to a relative of his.

Both Montague and Bunting have rejected the commission's report and are engaged in consultations with their attorneys on how to proceed in light of the damning allegations being levelled against them by the commission's findings.

Meadows is also speaking with his legal team.

Amid those discussions, Montague, the seemingly controversy-plagued politician, has resigned with immediate effect from his Cabinet position as Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC), with responsibility for housing, land and urban renewal.

In a tersely worded statement from the Office of the Prime Minister in the dead of the night on Friday, the confirmation of Montague's resignation came.

The release from Prime Minister Andrew Holness said he met with Montague late Friday evening and Montague tendered his resignation with immediate effect.

"Minister Montague expressed that it was a privilege to have had the 'opportunity to serve at the highest levels in Government'," the statement ended.

It is unclear for what precise reason Montague stepped aside, though the move came just two days after the damning Integrity Commission report.

Montague was removed from the Transport and Mining Ministry in late January after a series of scandals and controversies dogged that portfolio under his stewardship. These included contract awarding procedures at Clarendon Alumina Production (CAP), which handles the Government’s 45 per cent state in the operations of Jamalco bauxite/alumina company in Clarendon, and controversial invest in a private entity by the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ).

Montague was similarly removed from the national security portfolio in March 2018 after a series of scandals in that arena, including the FLA gun licences issue and the police used car debacle.

None of the three main scandals which occurred under the stewardship of the now former Cabinet minister have yet been fully resolved.

Then National Security Minister, Robert Montague (right), presents the first batch of used cars that were controversially procured for the police force, to then Commissioner of Police, George Quallo, years ago

With his ministerial resignation fresh on the table, some are also calling for Montague to be relieved of his post as JLP Chairman, a decision that could likely cause some amount of division within the governing party.

For now, however, it seems that Montague will remain in the House of Representatives as Member of Parliament (MP) for Western St Mary, and retains chairmanship of the Alexander Bustamante-founded party.

Similar calls have also been made for Peter Bunting to be stripped of his status as an Opposition Senator and Leader of Opposition Business in the Upper House, as well as PNP Spokesman on National Security.

Among those calling for the present and past public officials who have been flagged in the Integrity Commission report to resign are Executive Director of the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal (JAMP), Jeanette Calder, and head of the National Integrity Action (NIA), Professor Trevor Munroe.

The calls for Bunting to step down have intensified across social media especially, in light of Montague's exit from the Cabinet.

But the PNP has signalled that it is backing Bunting to remain in his public positions, contending that the Integrity Commission's report relating to the FLA has not implicated him in any irresponsible or illegitimate action.

The FLA scandal roared back into the public spotlight last month after Chief Executive Officer of the entity, Shane Dalling, revealed at a press conference that over 200 persons with serious criminal cases or convictions for serious crimes, had been approved for the granting of firearms licences over a three-to-four-year period between 2014 and 2017.

Shane Dalling

Dalling specifically accused Meadows of having been a major player in relation to the more than 200 gun licences that the CEO claimed were granted to criminals. Meadows later rejected that claim, and both himself and Bunting subsequently called for Dalling to be sacked as FLA CEO.

Fast forward to late Wednesday when Parliament released the Integrity Commission’s draft report which implicated Meadows, Bunting, Montague and previous FLA boards in connection with the granting of firearms licence to persons of questionable character.

In the 245-page draft report, it is stated that the Integrity Commission's Director of Investigations (DI) was of the opinion that "the 2012 and 2016 FLA boards acted ultra vires in (the) denial and subsequent approval of firearm user licence applications, as the appeal of decisions of the FLA Board should be made to the Review Board, pursuant to Section 37 of the Firearm Act."

The report added that: "The DI concludes that the facilitation of an expedited process for applications submitted by Members of Parliament (MP) and/or other public officials or private citizens is highly irregular and is a corruption-enabling conduit.

"The DI's conclusion is premised on the fact (that) this mandated 'VIP treatment' lends itself to the perception of corruption and bias and offends the principle of equity which should be applied to public services."

Specifically, in relation to the 2016 FLA board, the DI concluded that it "acted with impropriety in the issuance and/or grant(ing) of firearm user licences to persons of questionable character during the period 2016 to 2018."

In the draft report's summary of key findings, the commission provided an outline of some of the issues in the granting of firearm licences.

The commission, in its draft key findings, indicated that "for security purposes, the names of all (the applicable) firearm user licensees and applicants have been withheld, and were classified by the director of investigation using an alphabetic reference.”

According to the report, the Integrity Commission said Montague, who was National Security Minister from February 2016 to March 2018, approved, on appeal, six applications for firearm user licence after the application was denied by the then FLA Board.

In one of the cases, an individual referred to as Person RM/X1 was "arrested and charged for being in possession of personal information of a US citizen.

"He is also reported to be in possession of an illegal firearm. His firearm user licence was revoked on September 29, 2015, but was thereafter granted on December 16, 2016 on appeal by the Hon. Robert Montague, MP," the report stated.

In another instance, "Person RM6/Person X4 was arrested and charged for offences related to drugs and trading in guns.

"His application for a firearm user licence in respect of a 12 gauge shotgun was denied on March 27, 2012 by Mr Errol Strong, Khaleel Azan and Mrs Justice (Ret'd) Marva McIntosh on the basis that the applicant did not establish a need to be so armed.

"On August 9, 2016, the Hon. Robert Montague, MP, approved (the) application for the particular firearm user licence on appeal," the Integrity Commission draft report indicated.

Under Bunting's tenure as National Security Minister, the commission said there were two instances under which the appeal of two people of questionable character were allowed.

While one was directly granted an appeal by Bunting during his tenure as minister, the other was done by the FLA board during his time as the security minister.

In the case of one of those persons of questionable character, referred to as Person PB1/Person X50, that applicant was "arrested and charged in the United States for the offences of trafficking cocaine, four counts of larceny and grand theft in the third degree.

Peter Bunting (with hat in hand) back in his time as National Security Minister.

"His firearm user licence was revoked on September 4, 2012 by Mr Gilbert Scott, Mrs Justice (Ret'd) Marva McIntosh and Mr Michael Harvey on the basis that Person PB1/Person X50 misrepresented himself to the FLA and could no longer be considered fit and proper to be issued with a firearm," the report said.

However, the applicant's criminal record was "expunged after the date of the NIB (National Intelligence Bureau) report" to the FLA board on January 10, 2011.

"By way of letter dated October 28, 2014, it was indicated that Mr Peter Bunting, MP, then Minister of National Security, granted the issuance of a firearm user licence to Person PB1/Person X50. Given that the basis upon which his firearm user licence was revoked was now void, the FLA Board withdrew the revocation," stated the draft Integrity Commission report.

In relation to the other applicant, identified as Person PB2/PersonX21, he was arrested and charged with indecent assault, and was accused of molesting a little girl related to his wife.

"However, the matter was not reported to the police, and therefore no action was taken against the applicant," the commission wrote.

The individual's firearm licence application "was denied on January 24, 2012 by Mr Errol Strong, Mrs Justice (Ret'd) Marva McIntosh and Khaleel Azan on the basis that the applicant was interviewed and found unfit to be armed.

"It was subsequently approved on April 11, 2014 by Mrs Justice (Ret'd) Marva McIntosh, Mr Gilbert Scott and Mrs Rosalie McDonald-Baker," the report said.

According to the report, for the period February 2016 to February 2018, "FLA investigators" did not recommend "30 out of 52 applicants to be granted firearm user licences.

"Notwithstanding the fact that these people were denied by the FLA board, they were subsequently granted the licences upon a reconsideration of the board," the Integrity Commission claimed.

In relation to Meadows who was then the FLA’s Deputy Chairman, it was said that under his tenure he "approved the firearm user licence application of his family member, an applicant who was convicted of the offence of attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine in the United States."

Newsmaker of the Week: Damning IC report on FLA claims Montague

Continuing, the commission stated: "There is no written record of a declaration of a conflict of interest made by Mr Dennis Meadows as it regards the firearm user licence application to his family member.

"Despite the fact that Dennis Meadows informed the director of investigations (DI) that a declaration of his interest concerning the firearm licence application of his family member was made, the DI was not provided with any formal record of same.

"Dennis Meadows provided contradictory statements to the DI regarding whether he perused the application of his family member before the affixture of his signature for approval," the report said.

Dennis Meadows

The DI concluded that the act of approving the firearm user application for a family member who was a convict, by Meadows, "amounts to nepotism, a conflict(s) of interest and corruption".

The report, on that point, stated: "As a public servant in the execution of his public function, Mr Dennis Meadows advanced a private interest which resulted in a benefit to his family member.

"In this respect, his actions contravened the principles of integrity and good governance."

Meadows, in a newspaper interview, responded to the Integrity Commission's report, arguing that he was being "singled out and targeted" by the commission, especially in light of the anti-corruption agency referring him to its director of corruption prosecutions to determine if his alleged approval of a firearm licence to his relative rose to the standard of corruption.

On Thursday, both Montague and Bunting responded to the damning allegations levelled against them in the much-talked about report.

A day after his response, Montague resigned from the Cabinet.

But before that dramatic move, Montague described the Integrity Commission report "concerning my then fulfilment of my statutory duty to assess and make a decision on the issuance of gun licences to a range of people who appealed, having been initially denied", as being "grossly misrepresentative and incomplete".

He elaborated that, "It is unfortunate that prior to the tabling of the report, despite a suggestion made to me that I'd be given the courtesy, I was not fully given the opportunity to respond to that which the commission sought to assert as 'facts'.

"Every Jamaican citizen, regardless of their station or status in society, deserves to be afforded the full courtesy of natural justice. Every citizen has a right to be heard or to respond to accusations," declared the veteran politician.

"This due process was not fully afforded to me," he contended.

Continuing, he said: "The report also fails to take into consideration that all my actions concerning the referenced issue were informed and guided by the recommendation of a panel of experts which I had tasked with assisting in assessing appeals made to me in my capacity as Minister of Security.

"Despite the fact that the Integrity Commission report contained no adverse legal recommendations concerning me because I carried out my statutory function, I have referred the report to my lawyers for further review," disclosed Montague.

For his part, Bunting bashed the media for its reporting on the FLA issue, including aspects related to his involvement.

"The report listed a number of what appear to be serious irregularities at the Firearm Licensing Authority, almost all of which happened after my time as the responsible minister.

"Yet in their (media) coverage, they have mentioned two appeals that happened during my term of office. This was two of hundreds of cases that I would have reviewed during the four years I was the minister of national security," Bunting stated.

In elaborating on the two cases, the Opposition Spokesman on National Security said: "One case involved a person who had been charged 10 years earlier with cocaine-related offences while they were a student in Florida, and whose record was subsequently expunged.

"It is important to note that when a criminal record is expunged, the law requires that that person must be treated as if the crime had not occurred. There are very few exceptions to that rule, and none of them applied in this case," Bunting further stated.

"The other case involved a person who had been accused of molesting his wife’s relative. This was told to an investigator, but a formal report was never made to the police.

"Separately, that person also had two charges of assault from the 90s. One assault case was dismissed by the court, and a “no order” was made by the judge on the other case. In this case, therefore, the person had never been convicted of a crime," explained Bunting.

Furthermore, he said the Firearm Review Board had recommended that the licences be granted or restored, and as minister he "acted either in accordance with their recommendations, or more conservatively”.

Bunting declared that "The contents of the Integrity Commission’s report do not support the headlines and other statements in the media coverage which relate to me, and the media coverage is in my view defamatory.

"I have therefore instructed my attorneys to examine the reports, and if they conclude that the coverage is defamatory, to bring legal proceedings against those media houses unless they fully retract their defamatory statements and issue a public apology," Bunting further stated.

Despite the denials and the uncertainty of what is to come with these and other officials connected to the FLA, social media users have been looking on with disgust.

Amid it all, however, the political fanatics continue to put forward their support for their respective past ministers, seemingly blinded by the outrage being echoed around them by others.

Facebook user, Clinton McKinson, on Thursday had called for the resignation of Montague as a Government minister. That has now been fulfilled, but he went a step further with his calls, which also included Bunting's resignation.

"As A citizen of Jamaica, I want the following to be done,

(1) Robert Montague should resign from all public offices, which also means resigning from the JLP as Chairman of (the) party.

(2) Should he chose not to resign, the prime minister should fire him from all public offices.

(3) Mark Golding should demand Peter Bunting’s resignation from the Senate. Should he refuse, Mr Golding should write to the governor-general asking him to revote Peter Bunting’s (appointment to the Senate). These are the primary steps that should be taken, etcetera," wrote McKinson.

Reacting to Montague's resignation, Dwight Wallace wrote: "That was the right thing to do, sir".

However, Facebook user, L Longman Blair, did not agree with those positions relative to Montague.

"I am not a supporter of his, but I do not think based on the surface of (the) Integrity (Commission) report, that he should resign," he commented.

Ava Nizz Alcock agreed, stating that, "The report never said Montague should be charged with anyting enuh, so why is he resigning? He should remain. Him work hard, and a pure disrespect him a get... Him never do anyting wrong man, because the appeal can be made and granted by a minister for a (gun) licence."

Jermaine Robinson commented on the FLA salvo and the damning Integrity Commission report by focussing on the perceived corruption plaguing the country.

"If you want to see a better Jamaica you have to start discipline the people at the top and not only the poor people of the country, but we will have live to see a better Jamaica.

"Sad truth politicians and rich people can do anything in Jamaica and walk freely, while the poor people are being charged and pay fines or go to prison," shared Williams on Facebook.

For Tenseha Rowe-Morris, the whole FLA saga will become the proverbial nine-day wonder.

"This is not even shocking anymore to me enuh. This is Jamaica where poor people go jail for every crime committed and big shot criminal activities get nine-day talk and then sweep unda carpet good, good. Nuh same thing ago happen with this report. Nine days and all forgotten," she declared prior to Montague’s departure.

In agreeing with that stance, Facebook user, Curlene Christie, wrote: "Nothing not coming out of it..., because if uno think something is going to come out of it, uno have a next guest coming."

Vivienne Barnaby chimed into the conversation, stating that, "There is so much corruption in this country. Mi a wonder (why) the island has not sunk under the sea from the weight of corruption."

On Twitter, the questions are being posed on whether Bunting will follow his political opponent, Montague, and resign.

"Over to you Stunting Bunting & Chaka Chaka! Or is it going to be one standard for the JLP & a lower standard for the PNP?" tweeted @JackReb65.

Also questioning Bunting’s next step was @Donoviene.

"Will Bunting stay or will he do the honourable thing and walk too?" she asked.

@jayjaybrown97 tweeted: "This Government continues to act as promised. You sc..w up and you are out. Will Golding act? Of course he won't."

Jayy_Dwyer demanded accountability instead of only resignations.

He tweeted: "Tired of resignation. Wanna see really accountability now man. Sick and tired of these corruption scandals under this Government."

@sonofportie stated that the Integrity Commission report should not be allowed to be forgotten as other reports in the past.

"This finding must not be allowed to die on the vine, but must be pursued to a just conclusion," he shared.

@Carlatrain891 agreed with that view, and commented that, "We are a developing society and persons should be accountable for their actions…

"All players mentioned in the Integrity (Commission) report should not be given any more public duties for years to come, and charges should follow," she opined.

Prev: Mesu Kunavula signs new Edinburgh deal after 'exceptional' role in win over Brive

Next: Xiaomi announces Mix 4 with under-display camera