Fri | Dec 15, 2017

Editorial | FLA comic farce

Published:Wednesday | September 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM

We don't know precisely who is at fault. It is, however, increasingly clear that, at least in matters of national security, the Holness administration suffers from a crisis of communication and judgement.

There was, for instance, the fiasco over the steroids-bloated crime data that provided the basis upon which Mount Salem, St James, was declared the first zone of special operations under the Government's new anti-crime initiative. There was, too, the prime minister's ill-advised and insensitive quip during his tour of Mount Salem of people there being able to sleep with their windows and doors open, while criminality remained rampant elsewhere.

In just a year and a half, National Security Minister Robert Montague's cavalier remarks on matters relating to his portfolio - recall his exhortation to policemen to use condoms to prevent them being dragged before the Family Court - are already the stuff of legend. But this week's blunders over the appointment of a new board of governors for the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) are not only worse, but nothing short of comic farce.

The FLA has been the subject of much public discussion in recent weeks over the alleged granting of firearm permits to persons who ought to have been ineligible. That affair is the subject of a criminal investigation.

Key staff members of the FLA have been fired. In the midst of the scandal, the agency's former board, chaired by politician and businessman Dennis Wright, was forced to resign after another of its members, Dennis Meadows, ostensibly recused himself to allow the investigation into corruption to proceed without his involvement.

On Monday night, a statement issued from Mr Montague's ministry reported that the Cabinet had approved a new FLA board, with retired army chief and the national security adviser, General Antony Anderson, as its chairman. Curiously, Dennis Wright, the resigned former chairman, was named as a member. So it appeared that Mr Wright would be a governor of the agency that is under scrutiny for presumed criminal acts, some of which may have occurred during his stewardship.

 

QUESTIONABLE JUDGEMENT

 

We suppose that when the Cabinet approves the appointment of a board, the candidates put forward by the relevant minister are previously approached to determine their willingness to serve. In that event, Minister Montague's proposal of Mr Wright, and Mr Wright's acceptance, would call into question the judgement of both men, and worse, the judgement of the Cabinet, where the issues of real or perceived conflict are expected to be subject to robust debate.

Happily, 12 hours after the announcement, a modicum of good sense appeared to have asserted itself. Mr Montague's ministry announced that Mr Wright had declined the recall to the FLA board.

Yet, within minutes, another statement from the minister declared the whole episode to have been an error. "I have not appointed the board of the FLA." It is unlikely that a communications officer would have issued the original statement on his or her own prerogative.

As the Government goes about the cleaning, it's an opportunity for the administration to pull back from another error. We suggest that it also reconsider the appointment of General Anderson, who, in another circumstance, might have been a good choice. But as the national security adviser, General Anderson's portfolio encompasses a broad spectrum, including matters pertaining to the FLA, as the current crisis at that agency demonstrates.

Perception is as good as reality. It is in no one's interest for General Anderson to be perceived to be providing oversight of himself.