Mr Montague owes PNP, country an apology if…

Mr Montague owes PNP, country an apology if…

Thursday, September 21, 2017

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On Tuesday in this space we commended National Security Minister Robert Montague for inviting a member of the Opposition to join his newly formed Security Programme Oversight Committee (SECURIPOC).

We took it as a sign that he had accepted that security and crime must not be a partisan political issue, which is something this newspaper fervently believes.

It was therefore to our great surprise when the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) said no official invitation had come from Mr Montague and that they had learnt of the matter by Twitter and a news release to the public media.

If this is the case, the security minister owes the Opposition and the country an apology for the way in which such an important matter was handled or mishandled.

Our commendation of Mr Montague was done in good faith. We had assumed that he would have made a formal invitation to the Opposition in which he would have provided the fullest details about the objectives of the SECURIPOC and what was expected of the members.

That approach would not have left room for the Opposition to question the sincerity of the minister. We too now are questioning whether he really meant it when he stated that: “I am hopeful that Mr (Peter) Bunting will accept the invitation because I would want him to add his opposing voice so that the rest of the country will get the signal that we are serious about crime…” He also stated that: “National security is not a partisan or governmental response only. National security affects everyone.”

Mr Montague must have known better than to extend such an invitation in that careless and insincere manner. Was that the same way in which he invited all the other members to the committee? We hate to think that he was merely playing old-time politics.

It suggests that had no real interest in having the Opposition on the oversight committee that he said was designed to hold him and his ministry accountable. One wonders whether he wanted to make it impossible for the Opposition to accept, while giving the impression that he wanted a bipartisan committee.

Things are not looking good for Mr Montague. The prime minister taking full control of the zones of special operations (ZOSO) and the cock-up over the appointment of a board for the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) are further proof of this.

The ZOSO is now the centrepiece of the Government's programme to combat crime and bring down the spiralling murder rate. That the security minister is not the face of ZOSO suggests he does not enjoy the full confidence of the prime minister.

In the case of the FLA, all of three different press releases were issued announcing the appointment of a board and withdrawing the announcement. The security minister found himself in the embarrassing position of countermanding a decision by Cabinet, then putting it on hold until he returns from some meeting overseas.

No one would be surprised if Mr Montague finds himself a casualty of the promised Cabinet re-shuffle.

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