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'I said no' - Montague first shied away from national security portfolio

Published:Wednesday | March 16, 2016 | 3:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Robert Montague, minister of national security.

When Prime Minister Andrew Holness asked Robert Montague to take on the arduous task of carrying the national security portfolio, the latter simply said no.

"It was a little bit of a shock, and I told him no and the team no," said Montague, indicating that the prime minister would not take no for an answer. "There was an insistence and a discussion, and then I agreed."

The new national security minister, in his first interview since his appointment, calmly asserted that he was ready to take on the awesome task he has been given.

On the question of what success for the minister would look like, Montague replied: "Success for me would look like when Ms Hilda in Dias, Hanover, or in , St Thomas, can go to church, praise her God, and come home without fear of criminal elements; or when the ordinary Jamaican can wake up and go about their lawful business without a thought of criminal activity."

Montague made it clear that as minister of national security he was not responsible for operations within the Jamaica Constabulary Force. "I have confidence in the commissioner of police, the person charged and seized with operations. I dialogue with him. It is his responsibility to discharge the operational side of the business, and as a minister, I do not intend to interfere with the operation side of the business."

SPACE TO OPERATE

Furthermore, Montague argued that "Dr Carl Williams is the most eminently qualified commissioner of police in the Western Hemisphere, and we need to give him the space to operate, and I intend to give him that space to operate, and, therefore, you won't see me running all over the country at every crime scene because I am not a police officer. I will hold Dr Williams accountable based on the policy that we have, and we will give him the necessary resources and support, but the job of implementing policy rests on the capable shoulders of Dr Carl Williams."

Even before Montague got down to the business of running his ministry, he sought advice from his predecessors. According to Montague, he had dialogue with K.D. Knight, Dr Peter Phillips, Derrick Smith, Dwight Nelson, and Peter Bunting.

"When I got appointed, I started a series of consultations with former ministers of national security because I want to build on the foundation that they have laid and to pull from their experience."