No wor­ries!

... Gov’t tells se­cu­rity forces as US sus­pends gun ex­ports to Ja­maica

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­van John­son and Livern Bar­rett Gleaner Writ­ers

NA­TIONAL SE­CU­RITY Min­is­ter Robert Mon­tague has sought to give the as­sur­ance that the se­cu­rity forces will not be af­fected by the United States’ de­ci­sion to sus­pend the ex­port of guns to Ja­maica over foul-ups at the scan­dal-hit Firearm Li­cens­ing Author­ity (FLA).

Even as Mon­tague moves to quell fears, Peter Bunt­ing, his op­po­si­tion coun­ter­part, said the se­cu­rity min­is­ter should be blamed and sug­gested he be re­moved from the port­fo­lio.

“In light of re­cent events con­cern­ing Ja­maica’s Firearm Li­cens­ing Author­ity, the US Em­bassy is re­view­ing the firearm ex­port li­cens­ing ap­proval process,” read a state­ment yes­ter­day from the US Em­bassy in Kingston. “Dur­ing this re­view, there will be a tem­po­rary pause on firearm ex­ports as we re­quest fur­ther guid­ance from Wash­ing­ton on the long-term sta­tus of ex­port li­censes for firearms from the United States des­tined for Ja­maica.”

Mon­tague told The Gleaner that the United States “has a right to do what they did. But he as­serted that Ja­maica’s se­cu­rity forces “have suf­fi­cient weapons”.

But it’s not a cer­tainty that the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force and the Ja­maica De­fence Force, which get most of their guns and am­mu­ni­tion from the US, will es­cape the im­pact.

NO AN­TIC­I­PATED IM­PACT ON ARMY

Ac­cord­ing to Joshua Po­lacheck, pub­lic af­fairs coun­sel­lor at the em­bassy, the US does not “an­tic­i­pate” any im­pact on the po­lice and army “at this point”. He said that the re­view so far in­volved li­censed firearm deal­ers in Ja­maica.

The FLA had been swirling in con­tro­versy since Pa­trick Pow­ell was freed of the mur­der of school­boy Kha­jeel Mais in Oc­to­ber. Rev­e­la­tions came that Pow­ell’s main file at the author­ity had dis­ap­peared, and there were ques­tions as to whether his gun li­cence had been re­voked when he failed to turn over the weapon to the po­lice.

There was also the dis­clo­sure that two li­cences had been is­sued for the gun reg­is­tered in Pow­ell’s name, a find­ing the po­lice later said was caused by an “en­try er­ror”.

News also came yes­ter­day that a re­port on the agency had been turned over to the Ma­jor Or­gan­ised Crime and An­ti­Cor­rup­tion Agency.

But Bunt­ing is in­sist­ing that Mon­tague’s ut­ter­ances about the FLA in the af­ter­math of the Pow­ell case helped fuel the US’s ac­tions.

In Oc­to­ber, Mon­tague’s min­istry praised Dr Ken­roy Wed­der­burn, who was step­ping down as CEO, for im­prov­ing the ef­fi­cien­cies of the “model agency”. In a state­ment last week, how­ever, Mon­tague said the FLA’s sys­tems were ei­ther “cor­rupt or bro­ken”.

“If the min­is­ter, who is re­spon­si­ble for the agency, de­scribes the sys­tem as ei­ther cor­rupt or bro­ken, what would he have ex­pected from ex­ter­nal ob­servers? It’s just po­lit­i­cal mis­man­age­ment by the min­is­ter. It’s just been mis­take upon mis­take by the board and the min­is­ter,” Bunt­ing ar­gued. “I re­ally think it’s just ab­so­lutely un­for­tu­nate, un­nec­es­sary, and it be­trays a lack of un­der­stand­ing of the sober na­ture of the min­istry.

“I’ve been very re­strained in my com­ments on this min­istry up to now, but I am forced to con­clude the per­son­al­ity (Mon­tague) is not best suited for the as­sign­ment that he has been given.”

Mon­tague has hit back at Bunt­ing, who he re­placed in March as se­cu­rity min­is­ter, say­ing that the de­fi­cien­cies at the FLA ex­isted be­fore he took over the post.

“If we in our re­view find dis­crep­an­cies, we have to cor­rect them. And these dis­crep­an­cies, the move­ment of the Pow­ell file, did not oc­cur in 2016. It oc­curred long be­fore. It is my re­spon­si­bil­ity to cor­rect them, and I’m call­ing on the sup­port of all stake­hold­ers to be calm and help us cor­rect them.”

Bunt­ing, how­ever, said that Mon­tague should ex­plain why he praised the FLA as a “model agency” in Oc­to­ber if the dis­crep­an­cies were still present at the agency.

MON­TAGUE

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