The Board of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) did the right thing – after more than a gentle nudge from the Prime Minister, it appears – by resigning yesterday (August 2) in the wake of ongoing major concerns over the issuance of gun licenses to suspected criminals. I wrote about several of these issues in my weekly roundup here.
By the way, has Mr. Patrick Powell – acquitted of a 2011 murder charge and found guilty on July 11 of failing to hand over his licensed firearm and ammunition to the investigating police officer – now handed it over? Powell will be sentenced on August 9. Powell has held onto his Glock pistol since July 20, 2011 (yes, six years plus) when he was charged with this offence. National Integrity Action (NIA) spoke out on this issue last November, when Mr. Powell’s firearm file mysteriously disappeared.
Here is NIA’s press release today on the matter.
August 3, 2017
Decisive Action Required Beyond Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) Board Resignations
National Integrity Action (NIA) acknowledges and appreciates the resignation of the Board of the FLA following Prime Minister Holness’ return to Jamaica. However, beyond resignation decisive action is required:
- The current investigations being carried out by the Office of the Contractor General, the MOCA and the Justice Seymour Panton Review Board need to be thorough but speedily concluded. Thereafter, the public interest requires full disclosure of findings, particularly relating to the identities, dates and circumstances surrounding the granting of any firearms licenses to persons with adverse intelligence “traces”. We remind the country that between January and July 29, 2017 eighty-three percent (83%) of murders in Jamaica were committed with the gun, up from seventy-four percent (74%) in 2013. In the interest of improving citizen security, requires not only in blocking the entry of illegal weapons into Jamaica but as well the ensuring that no gun license is issued to suspected scammers and individuals with security “traces”.
- Firearm licenses determined in these investigations to have been unjustifiably or illegally issued should be promptly withdrawn and prosecutions given priority where there is evidence of persons, at whatever level in the FLA, having issued such licenses in a corrupt or unlawful fashion.
- Beyond these immediate measures the relevant law needs to be amended to remove partisan political influences from appointments to the FLA Board in so far as the functions of the FLA place that institution at the centre of ensuring citizen safety and security. The amended legislation should, in the manner of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, empower the Governor General to make appointments after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, with the majority of such appointees drawn from retired judges of the Supreme and/or Appeal Courts and independent persons of undisputed integrity, taking into account recommendations from stakeholders such as the Firearms Dealers Association.
- Until the Act is amended along the above lines, appointments to an Interim Board should be strictly in accordance with the “Corporate Governance Framework for Public Bodies in Jamaica” (revised 2012). Principle ten (10) of that Framework sets out the basis for “board selection and appointment” as follows: “the responsible Minister…should appoint Board Members based on merit, against objective criteria…there should be a defined policy for the nomination, selection, appointment and termination of Directors that is transparent, inclusive and that lends itself to continuous review”. These objective criteria should be publicly disclosed prior to the appointment of an Interim Board, given the need to build public trust in the legitimacy of the FLA process and given the specific instabilities at the FLA preceding the current crisis, that is, the disappearance of the Patrick Powell Firearm file in November 2016; the resignation of the Head of the Applications Department in September 2015 after a probe ordered by then Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting; the resignation of the Board en bloc in June 2010 after questions were asked by then Minister of National Security, Dwight Nelson concerning significant increase in the issuance of gun licenses.
NIA urges the implementation of the above measures and calls on the public and the media to ensure that the FLA crisis does not become a “nine-day wonder.”
Professor Trevor Munroe CD, DPhil (Oxon)