Thu | Apr 25, 2019

Mark Wignall | PNP hypocrisy on FLA

Published:Sunday | October 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Peter Bunting
Senator wants more Jamaicans to have weapons to defend themselves

A political party out of power will have its best days in sniping at little matters, magnifying them in the public domain, and in exposing genuine wrongs by the ruling administration. In reality, the worst that could happen to a party like the PNP is some semblance of good governance by the JLP administration.

We are still quite some distance away from a wholesale crowing of good governance by the vast majority of our people, so where there are bright spots in terms of job creation, infrastructural development, and attempts at controlling the crime monster, a political duty falls to the Opposition PNP to constantly rain on the Government's parade and belittle any positives that emerge.

In this, former National Security Minister Bobby Montague is neither a hard nor soft target to the extent that he is a convenient one. Hot-button items like the granting of firearms through the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) will always engage our people at a visceral level, and the PNP knows this. Just ask Peter Bunting, himself also a former security minister under the previous PNP administration.

The gist of the PNP's criticisms is that while Mr Montague was security minister, he introduced his presence where it was uncalled for. The PNP is trying to sell the nation and all those who view political matters through their tribal lens that Montague was a meddler. Not far off is the PNP's constant calls that even if Minister Montague should be named minister of obeah, he should be summarily fired from that post. For what? Mixing up medina with oil a love mi?

Here is where the fun starts and the PNP hypocrisy is bared raw.

On September 22, 2014, the permanent secretary (PS) in the security ministry writes a letter to the CEO of the FLA. The letter largely concerns a review case of a man who I shall refer to as SH. The letter states that in a case where a firearm licence had been revoked, new information indicated that the man's gun licence should be reinstated.

On October 9, the CEO of the FLA responds to the PS. He assures him that there is no intention to undermine the authority of the minister. Apologies are offered. Inside the body of that letter is info that states that the man's licence was revoked because the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) determined that SH had been previously arrested in Florida for trafficking in cocaine, larceny, and grand theft.

In the letter, it is stated that SH has submitted documents that said he was never convicted, plus his records were expunged some time after the NIB traces.


We the people should've been so lucky


On October 28, 2014, a letter was written from the PS of the security ministry to the CEO of the FLA. It stated that the minister had approved the case for review "pursuant to Section 37 (2) of the Firearms Act".

The letter also advised the FLA head that consideration should be given to his application for a shotgun "as long as he meets the requirement".

On December 4, 2014, a letter is written under cover of the PS to the man's lawyer. He seems to be a man of substance who can afford a lawyer in such matters.

"This serves to inform you that the Honourable Minister has reviewed your client's application and has granted approval for the reinstatement of Firearms Users Licences in respect of a Springfield 9mm pistol ... and a Beneli 12-gauge shotgun with serial number ... , which were the subject of revocation orders.

"Also, the Honourable Minister has granted approval for Mr H's application for an additional Firearms Users Licence in respect of a shotgun subject to him meeting the requisite conditions of the Firearms Act."


Where are the political angels in this?


Central Manchester PNP Member of Parliament Peter Bunting is a man on his way to setting fire at Peter Phillips' tail. At some stage, one Peter is gong to bun the other. And it seems to me that Phillips is the one likely to get singed, or if it goes the other way, and the veteran Peter Phillips continues on as PNP leader and loses at the next election, the JLP will explode in a type of political happiness that that party has not seen since early 1981.

As security minister in 2013, Mr Bunting would have been aware of files inside the FLA that were identified in the period 2010-2015 - especially about 200 of them that were referred to MOCA. This is not, of course, to indicate in any way that Bunting broke the law or breached ministerial ethics. He, more than anyone else, would know that. Or so I think.

One file spoke to a man, QZ, who "was denied on May 7, 2013, based on the finding that he resides overseas and had no need to be armed. Mr QZ later wrote a letter specifically addressed to the Review Board. The matter was not sent to the Review Board but was dealt with by the FLA board that had previously denied the application.

"Mr QZ present (sic) a letter of employment from ABC Ltd (obviously not the real name) stating that he is employed to the company. The board reversed the 2013 decision and granted the licence in (sic) April 8, 2014. That is, 11 months later."

Then there is this, still among the 200 files sent to MOCA. "FX from a Manchester address was denied in 2011." The notes are not well written. "He later applied for a review, while the Review Board made recommendation to minister. Before the minister responsible is given, the board approves the licence in 2014."


We know how politics works


Party politics has never quite mixed well with the 'collective purity' of the voters who expect their politicians to deliver goodies. To them first.

Usually, ministers of government stand so far above those they hold sway over in a ministry that many ministers rarely get involved in detailed policy work. The evidence has long been in that when ministers get deep-down involved, it tends to get very dirty.

The other crazy side of this is that when ministers tend to trust their main administrators and remain aloof, either because they believe much more can be achieved in this arrangement or they sincerely believe that professionals in the civil service should pull their weight, the shop will burn down and the ministers will only get a whiff of the smoke much later.

There are many top people in this country who value the connection they have with a powerful politician, a murderous gunman, or a ruthless policeman more than they place worth on their friends and close family members.

Many of us are ourselves social mercenaries, all too willing to sell our souls to those who can guarantee us a comfortable place at the head table. If one needs the usefulness or the power of a firearm fully licensed, another soul-selling is in the making.

But please remember to remind those who pretend that they are icons that many of them are fakes and cowards who hide behind official letterheads and pretend that they do not know what is happening.

Many years ago when a politically linked friend of mine handed me a firearm licence application (already signed by a JP), the FLA had not yet been birthed. It was all about who you were, which powerful person you knew, and how much funds you were prepared to spend. I never signed it. My mother did not approve of it.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs commentator. Email feedback to and