By Chris Patterson
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Jamaica’s former national security minister and current minister of transport and mining, Robert Montague, has rejected any suggestion of impropriety regarding the return of a firearms licence subsequent to an appeal.
He was responding to a news report aired on a local television station on August 9.
Montague who held the post of national security minister during the period in question said, “All decisions made by me while occupying the post… were in the interest of that portfolio and the safety and security of all Jamaicans.”
Speaking at a press conference on August 10, Montague explained that all decisions to grant permits after appeals were heard had to be unanimous, adding that no deviation from this principle ever took place.
He noted that Clauses 37, and 37A of the Firearms Act outlines the process of appeal and it explicitly gives the minster the final determination as to permits for firearms.
He added that, as minister, he took the policy decision to improve the governance process, where a committee of six senior persons within the national security framework was empanelled to sit as a part of an appeals panel.
“I did not do it alone,” he stressed.
Montague said that, during his tenure, 209 cases were reviewed out of a total of 350, while 29 licences were recommended for granting by the panel.
“The case in question involving the person discussed in the story, was no different, as to his appeals process. The review panel unanimously recommended the reinstatement of the license. Important to note, the licence had been issued previously by the previous administration and they subsequently revoked it, the gentleman appealed, it is the appeal that was referred to me as minister,” he disclosed.
Montague informed that while the person in question had been charged previously under the lottery scamming legislation, the charges were thrown out by the courts, as no evidence was ever provided.
He added that the police officer who had charged the person in question was alleged to be corrupt and was separated from the police force.
“The person in question, the one making the appeal, subsequently became a national security asset. The information provided by him regarding the FLA, unearthed scandalous issues which were associated with the entity,” Montague said.
“Proof of these issues was provided by him and actions have been taken including FLA personnel being fired and/or licenses of Jamaicans being revoked. Important to note, this matter has been ventilated with the contractor general in the past, based on an assertion with the said police officer in question, well ex police officer,” he added.
Montague pointed out that when the access to information (ATI) request was sent by the person in charge of news at the local television station, the status of the individual as a national security asset was disclosed with the expectation of it being private.
“The process of appeals was also laid out to him in a private meeting by a senior ministry official. The reporting on this matter is irresponsible and has sent a troubling signal to other national security assets. The person in question has since voluntarily relocated outside of Jamaica because of personal security concerns and as such his gun licence was revoked,” he said.
He added that it is his intention to compile the interaction and lodge formal complaints with the managing director of the television station, the Press Association of Jamaica and other civil society organisations.
“This represents in my opinion, at its minimum, gross journalistic irresponsibility. There must be balance between the need to report and the need to protect national security. I do hope greater clarity has been provided,” he said.