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FLA fallout - MOCA to probe Deputy Chairman Dennis Meadows as he takes break from board

Published:Saturday | July 29, 2017 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall

Deputy Chairman of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) Dennis Meadows is now the subject of a probe by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA).

In a release yesterday, chairman of the FLA Dennis Wright said he has asked MOCA to initiate an investigation into innuendos being made against Meadows regarding operations at the authority.

But in a quick response, Opposition Spokesman on National Security Peter Bunting argued that "MOCA cannot investigate

innuendos; it can only investigate allegations of criminal or corrupt conduct."

Bunting added: "The entire board needs to resign and the issuance of new licences suspended while this investigation is taking place."

Wright's release came minutes after Meadows announced that he would recuse himself (not resign) from the board pending any investigation.

"Further, I urge MOCA to conduct any investigation in an effort to protect my good name and character and make its findings public," said Meadows, as he argued that innuendos and political mischief were being targeted at him, possibly because he is the better-known political operative.

According to Meadows, a former candidate for the governing Jamaica Labour Party, he can speak unequivocally to the impenetrable integrity of himself and fellow members of the board.

"Since our appointment, we have instituted a raft of measures aimed at reducing negative perception of corruption within the authority. Among them the vetting of present and potential staff (while) subjecting them to Central Investigation Bureau, National Intelligence Bureau and MOCA. In addition, we have added MOCA to the menu of agencies for vetting of applicants for firearm licence. This was never done prior to the new board's appointment," said Meadows.

"I am always a proponent of integrity and transparency in public life. Therefore, I am prepared to lead by example," added Meadows.

He urged the Government to give consideration to the thought of removing the FLA from direct political control in the near future, "as it is often the target of political mischief, aimed at scoring narrow political points, and consequently impugning the good name and character of its directors.

"This may be achieved through the setting of up a commission of Parliament and its members appointed by the governor general," argued Meadows.

In the meantime, the FLA chairman said he has also asked MOCA to investigate any approval of firearm licences which may be considered suspicious prior to 2016.

Wright said Meadows "welcomes any investigation as it will protect not only his integrity and that of the FLA, but to also clear his name".

The opposition spokesman charged that the intervention so far from Minister of National Security Robert Montague has not gone far enough.

Following a meeting with the FLA board last Friday, Montague announced that he has asked the FLA's Review Board, headed by former Court of Appeal president, Justice Seymour Panton, to undertake a review of its process, procedures and systems.

But Bunting argued that Montague has forgotten that a review was already conducted by a senior official in the Ministry of National Security and that the report, including recommendations, was delivered six months ago.

"To date, these recommendations have not been acted upon. Furthermore, it is not appropriate for the Review Board, which is one element of the firearm approval process, to be asked to participate in an administrative review of a process in which they have a role.

"This would be like asking an Appeal Court judge to preside over an appeal when he was a participant in the original Supreme Court trial," said Bunting.