Thu | Feb 27, 2020

PM to make decision on Montague, FLA controversy after full probe

Published:Thursday | August 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says that he has been receiving updates on the controversy surrounding former Minister of National Security Robert Montague's involvement in the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) granting a gun licence to man who reportedly has a dubious record and who was previously denied by the agency.

Montague last week defended a decision taken by an appeal committee, which he was part of, to grant a firearm licence to a St Mary resident in December 2016, who he has described as a "national security asset".

"I am presently getting a brief on the matter that was raised. I had previous information on the matter, but I am getting an updated brief on it," Holness told journalists at the Government's quarterly press briefing at Jamaica House yesterday.

He said that the law allows for ministerial discretion, reasoning that there have been similar actions taken in the past.

"What has come to my attention in discussion with the current minister of national security is that there have been cases stretching back four or five years of ministerial discretion being used to give firearm licences to persons who were previously refused," said Holness.

Under Sections 37 and 37A of the Firearm Act, the minister of national security is empowered to make the final determination regarding the issuance of a firearm licence.

Montague had said that a panel adjudicated 209 appeals between March 2016 and April 2018, with 29 cases being overturned.


Investigate the 29 cases


Holness is of the view that those 29 cases must also be investigated for him to reach a decision.

"I believe all those cases could be investigated, and I have had discussions with Minister (Horace) Chang about that," the prime minister stated.

"I have not said anything as yet to the commissioner of police, but as soon as I get the updates, including all the other cases, then after discussion with the Cabinet, we will take a decision. It is likely to be that all these cases should be investigated for transparency, and the public should know what the reasons are behind the use of ministerial discretion in that way, and, indeed, who are the persons involved."

But Opposition Spokesperson on National Security Fitz Jackson said that he sought legal advice in relation to the 29 cases that were overturned.

"There was no provision in law for the minister to put together any ad hoc group to review the recommendations of a review board established by law, and it was necessary for the People's National Party to be advised if the decisions allowing the appeals were ultra vires and, therefore, of no legal effect. This is tantamount to an abuse of power, with very serious consequences for the nation's security," Jackson said.