MONTEGO BAY, St James — INSISTING that they, too, have guns, western Jamaica's businessmen are outraged over the delay in the opening of a promised Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) office in Montego Bay.
"The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) is once again calling upon the FLA to announce to members of the public and, in particular, firearm licence holders residing outside of Kingston and St Andrew, the reasons for the delay in the opening of the Montego Bay regional office," read a statement from Davon Crump, president of the MBCCI, which added that the Minister of National Security had earlier indicated the office would have been opened by June 2012.
President of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nigel Myrie, who is in solidarity with his chamber colleagues in the western resort city, noted that it is costly and dangerous for firearm holders in his parish to drive such a long distance.
"They (FLA) have promised for some time now that they would have done this and it has been raised in the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce meetings time after time and the office has still not been opened. We feel it is a failure on the part of the authorities to hold their word to provide services adequately," he said.
"I mean, Kingston is not farther from Westmoreland than Westmoreland is from Kingston and it wouldn't be nice if everybody had to drive from Kingston to come to Westmoreland. I am sure there would be complaints if that was done. So we need to be fair and we need to be equitable. Let's place the facility here (in western Jamaica) to ease some pressure," Myrie added.
Godfrey Dyer, a past president of the MBCCI, was similarly peeved that the FLA had failed to open the doors to an office in Montego Bay, after having promised to do so as far back as a year ago.
"It is a very serious problem. One year ago, they said it would be opened and they even identified the office and that hasn't been done yet. In my opinion, it is very disgraceful that everybody has to leave from Montego Bay and the western section to go to Kingston with their firearm to get it licensed. Something needs to be done," he insisted.
"People who have nothing else to do in Kingston have to drive up there to get their firearm licence and expose themselves to danger, which is totally unnecessary. What could be holding them up and you paying a fee to do it?" Dyer added.
President of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce Richard Bourke not only noted his own members' dissatisfaction over the absence of a division of the FLA in western Jamaica, but also advocated for the centralisation of other agencies.
"It is always a concern of the chamber that most government entities are [located in Kingston] and requires the people in most other parishes to have to go to Kingston for everything. So we are always for having one other option for these entities on the north coast or in the west," he said.
At the same time, Bourke noted the challenges faced by licensed firearm holders who fail to take all their documentation to the FLA office in Kingston.
"They need to carry firearm and all other documentation and if you slip and you don't have one thing, you have to go back to get it. So you have to be a hundred per cent right. Otherwise, you have to be going to Kingston more than once," she said.
Meanwhile, Crump said that the MBCCI has for years been lobbying for the establishment of a regional FLA office in Montego Bay "to prevent the inefficiency, security risk, gross inconvenience, and totally unnecessary costs and expense suffered by too many people, including women, who must journey all the way to Kingston, simply to renew or apply for a firearm licence".
"The Montego Bay Chamber sees the immediate establishment of regional offices as critical to the FLA's enforcement of "Revocation and Re-Certification Notices" published in the media," he said. "The Montego Bay Chamber challenges the FLA not to use its own failure to provide the islandwide services required by its mandate as an administrative body pursuant to the Firearms Act, to penalise legitimate licence holders outside the Corporate Area".