Shooters in limbo

Absence of FLA board forces JRA to miss Guyana tournament; JSC worried

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 19, 2017



MEMBERS of Jamaica's sport shooting fraternity say the absence of a board at the scandal-hit Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) has impaired their ability to travel overseas for tournaments.

Both the Jamaica Skeet Club (JSC) and Jamaica Rifle Association (JRA) have been affected, as their import/export permits would require approval from the majority of the agency's five board members, the Jamaica Observer was told.

In fact, the JRA has already missed a tournament in Guyana because the agency is still without a board, and members of the JSC team are now on the edge of their seats because they are slated to participate in the United States National Shotgun Championships next Monday.

The FLA came under intense public scrutiny late July in relation to the issuance of licences to people deemed unfit. The board resigned in August in order to facilitate a police investigation which has so far uncovered that the practice has been taking place across political administrations.

The Ministry of National Security had said then that the members of the board were stepping down to protect their integrity and that of the institution.

After a foul-up in September when the ministry announced a new FLA board had been appointed but later said that was not the case as the disclosure was made prematurely, Minister Robert Montague announced in Parliament on October 3 that the new board would be named the following week.

However, two weeks later, a board of directors has still not been named.

One member of the JSC, who spoke with the Observer on condition of anonymity, believes that there needs to be a policy change to ensure that the situation does not recur.

“Once the import/export permits get delayed by the FLA, then nothing else can be done. The JRA was supposed to go to Guyana to shoot and they were unable to go because there is no board in place to sign the permit, and we at the Jamaica Skeet Club are now in the same situation.

“Everybody is giving us the full cooperation, but their hands are tied unless the board convenes and signs it,” he told the Observer in a telephone interview.

“My opinion is that this procedure needs to be changed because we should never be in a position like this. This is like the Reggae Boyz wanting to go away and they don't have the boots so they have to play in sneakers,” the source said.

He continued: “I know that the authority is trying, but one of the things that should be easy to do is to get the shooters to travel. When we are travelling it's the top people in the sport that are well-known — firearm holders with integrity representing the sport and country — so it should be the simplest document to sign.

“So when this thing is over and the board is appointed, I will write them a letter to say that this should never happen again. They must find a way to allow the CEO or the permanent secretary to sign these documents because the country's team must never be held to ransom based on the fact that there is no board in place,” the source argued.

When contacted, FLA Chief Executive Officer Shane Dalling said that the situation is beyond his control, as the applications have already been processed and are awaiting a board to be appointed by Minister Montague in short order.

“It needs the board to finalise it and until then, there is nothing we can do,” Dalling said. “I don't appoint the board, the Cabinet of Jamaica appoints the board. So if there is no board in place, then the applications cannot be approved.”

The FLA was established on March 1, 2006, in line with the implementation of the provisions of the Firearm Amendment Act (2005), as a statutory organisation within the Ministry of National Security to replace the role of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and increase professionalism and transparency in the granting of firearm licences.

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