Thu | Aug 17, 2017

INDECOM claims Bunting issued JDF immunity on ‘dead’ regulation

Published:Tuesday | April 12, 2016 | 4:44 PM
Former National Security Minister Peter Bunting. The INDECOM attorney has blasted his actions charging that they had the potential of heading the (INDECOM) investigations off track before it even began.

Livern Barrett, Senior Gleaner Writer

The Judicial Review Court today heard that in January this year, Peter Bunting, the then national security minister relied on emergency powers that expired more than five years earlier to grant immunity from prosecution to members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) who used mortars in the Tivoli operations.

The revelation came on day two of the hearing of an application by army chief Major General Antony Anderson seeking to quash a warrant obtained by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) to search the JDF’s Up Park Camp headquarters.

According to court documents, on January 7 this year, Bunting issued a certificate which “grants immunity from any action, suit, prosecution or other proceedings for those members of the JDF involved in the use of mortars" during the operations.

The documents also revealed that Bunting issued another certificate on January 13 this year declaring that Public Interest Immunity is attached to some of the documents being sought by INDECOM.

In May 2010, the Parliament authorised a state of emergency limited to Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine to facilitate several joint police-military operations aimed at capturing then fugitive Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.

However, those powers expired a month later and attorneys for INDECOM told the court today that when a motion for an extension was brought to Parliament "one Peter Bunting" who was a member of the Opposition at the time objected to an extension.

"It is interesting how life plays out. Now this Peter Bunting has issued a certificate of immunity on a dead regulation," said INDECOM attorney Tana'ania Small Davis.

In addition, court records show that the certificates were issued days after INDECOM served notice that it had secured a warrant to search the army's St Andrew headquarters.

Small Davis blasted the actions of the former security minister, charging that they had the potential of "heading the (INDECOM) investigations off track before it even began."

Small Davis also questioned why the three soldiers facing criminal charges arising from the murder of businessman Keith Clarke were not granted similar immunity.

Attorney-at-law Walter Scott, who is representing the Defence Board of which Bunting was a part, told the court he believed the warrant obtained by INDECOM "triggered” the certificates but said he could not explain what was in Bunting's mind.

Scott noted that the emergency powers regulations give the minister of national security the power to issue the certificates without any explanation, but said if challenged, he would have to explain why they were granted.

The matter continues Wednesday.

The Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre attempted to reach Bunting for a comment, but was unsuccessful as he was said to be in a meeting.