Editorial

We must learn from the FLA scandal

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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The daily stream of revelations in the scandal engulfing the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) is extremely frightening.

Consider the implications for the country when, as is being alleged, dubious characters who, having been denied gun licences initially, were eventually approved and are now walking around with weapons meant to take life.

Our lead story today tells of a suspected gangster who, after being denied a licence in 2014, was issued a permit the following year. The report also highlights the case of a firearm holder who was able to renew his licence in July 2017 while being incarcerated abroad.

These and the other damning allegations made against the FLA are more than enough reason for a total overhaul of the authority which, ironically, was established to remove the stain of corruption on the issuing of firearm licences when the responsibility was held by the police force.

It seems to have escaped the staff at the FLA that the agency was created by Parliament as a statutory body within the Ministry of National Security to observe international standards in the granting, renewal, and revocation of firearm licences.

As we pointed out before in this space, along with the allegations that the FLA has issued gun licences to people with shady characters comes the admission from the agency that its operations have been sadly lacking in required efficiencies.

Chief Executive Officer Mr Shane Dalling was reported as saying that there are licensed gun holders who had not taken their weapons in for inspection — as mandated by law — in years, some for as long as 14 years.

While we commend the last board for its recent enforcement drive, which led to many licensed gun holders standardising their status, the effort to clean up the system cannot stop there.

We therefore hope that the investigation being conducted by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) will expose those individuals who obtained gun licences under corrupt circumstances, as well as the individuals who approved those permits. After that, those who are to be charged, should be, and must be placed before the court to answer for their deeds.

Inviting MOCA, the National Intelligence Bureau, and the Criminal Investigation Bureau to vet staff, as well as the use of polygraph testing are all steps in the right direction.

At the same time, we reiterate our support for a proposal made by Mr Dennis Meadows, who sat on the last FLA board and who had stepped aside to facilitate the MOCA investigation after allegations relating to his directorship were made against him.

Mr Meadows, who said he was the victim of a “smear campaign”, proposed that the Government “gives due 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”.

He suggested that independence for the FLA could be achieved through “the setting up of a commission of Parliament” with “its members appointed by the governor general”.

This FLA saga should also give the country cause to review how the boards of State agencies are appointed.

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