We're not corrupt, we won't step aside, says FLA board - Denounces claims as innuendos amid licence scandal
The embattled board of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) is standing firm, declaring it is not corrupt and sees no reason for all its members to temporarily step aside as a high-level probe of the alleged granting of gun licences to people of questionable character intensifies.
The stance comes as news emerged that a Jamaica Labour Party activist on the police radar and once investigated for several crimes was granted a licence.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is also said to be "very concerned" and is on the verge of demanding the resignations of the five board members.
According to Dennis Wright, the chairman, the board is not involved in any corruption and was the initiator of talks with the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) earlier this year that led to the current investigation of more than 100 gun licences.
In fact, Wright said the damning allegations that emerged last week, which include claims of senior FLA members selling licences, are acts of "mischief" by people he did not name during an extensive interview on 'RJR's Beyond the Headlines' yesterday.
"What the FLA has been subject to is a barrage of innuendos from last week. A whole series of accusations with no facts," he said. "The board has not been doing anything that may be considered corrupt or bad practice."
While MOCA does its probe, the FLA's review board, headed by former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Seymour Panton, is also reviewing the agency's systems.
FLA chief executive officer, Shane Dalling, said in the interview that a decision on an independent audit of the gun authority could be done after this week's completion of a "detailed check" going back "as far as possible" relating to applications that were initially denied then approved before appeals are heard.
Dennis Meadows, the deputy chairman, recused himself from the board Saturday to allow for a police investigation, saying, according to a government release, that he was the "target of a smear campaign". That notification from the Ministry of National Security came a day after the portfolio minister Robert Montague held an emergency meeting with the board.
Montague was forced to act after a letter was leaked, showing a member of the Police High Command expressing concern about licences being approved for people with gun convictions and questionable character.
The Opposition has called for the "immediate removal of the leadership of the FLA and the board of directors", with spokesman on national security, Peter Bunting, also pointing to the appointment of Wright, Meadows and Dalling, who are all former Jamaica Labour Party election candidates.