‘Rotten to the core’

Robert Montague on Tuesday fired a second salvo of criticism at the Integrity Commission, offering as evidence of bias against him correspondence between former Contractor General Dirk Harrison and former National Security Minister Peter Bunting in relation to a firearm licence application which, he said, was not included in the commission’s special investigation report tabled in the House in 2022.

“The commission seems to do its work with one rule for some and another rule for others,” he said, repeating the accusation he first made when he spoke on the matter in Parliament last week.

Montague’s comments were fuelled by an addendum to the commission’s 2017 special investigation report which had concluded that he and Bunting, during their tenures as national security minister, had acted improperly in the award of gun licences to men of “questionable character”.

Both men have consistently insisted that they did nothing wrong and that they had acted in accordance with the law.

In the addendum tabled last week the commission vindicated Bunting, but said it had no reason to disturb the report in relation to Montague.

Charging that the chain of events during the investigation smacks of conflict of interest issues and favouritism, Montague told Parliament on Tuesday that he had discovered long ago that Harrison wrote a letter and an e-mail to Bunting during the period that was under investigation, yet did not disclose this material fact in the special report, and the Integrity Commission, in its review, did not include it in the addendum.

He said that in addition, Harrison, who was the lead investigator and contractor general, wrote another letter in 2010 recommending a man who had a criminal conviction to the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA).

That man, he said, is one of the eight individuals under review in the special report.

“This report was investigated, compiled, and written by the learned gentleman and then Contractor General, Mr Dirk Harrison. He was then the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and wrote the letter on the letterhead of the ODPP,” Montague, who represents St Mary Western in the legislature, said as he showed the document to parliamentarians.

Additionally, Montague claimed that an e-mail was sent to Bunting in 2013, which was not sent to his official government e-mail account, but to another account.

“So, was there or is there a personal relationship between the Honourable Minister and the learned Lead Investigator and then Contractor General?” Montague questioned.

He said that the e-mail was to withdraw Harrison’s recommendation of a man [for a firearm licence] that he had made a few days before.

Montague also charged that Harrison copied the e-mail to three people, who were then employees of the Office of the Contractor General, but he never copied them on the original recommendation.

“Was this strange action to cover something? Or was it to right a perceived wrong or breach?” he questioned.

Montague said he believes that at least one of the individuals copied on that e-mail still works at the Integrity Commission, and in a very senior position.

“This person has knowledge of the communication and would have been aware of the conflict of interest, whether real or otherwise, and did not disclose it to the writer of the original report and lead investigator and then contractor general nor to the writer of the addendum,” he said.

“Something is not right. But it goes much deeper. On one occasion when I was being interviewed I brought to the attention of the learned lead investigator and then contractor general the conflict of interest that existed and invited him to leave the room. He did leave, but left reluctantly.

“So he knows that I know. So why did he not declare this in the report? Yet, in the report there is a whole chapter entitled conflict of interest,” he said.

Montague argued that “it is now manifestly clear that they had a judgment and a verdict before, during and after the investigation. They did not come with clean hands. The foundation of the report cannot stand. It is rotten to the core and should not stand. Not declaring his involvement leaves a very bad taste.”

He said that Jamaica needs an anti-corruption agency that will not show favouritism, but is fair, just, and even-handed.

“The current one has many questions to answer. They have betrayed my trust and the people’s trust, they have let us down, they have disappointed Jamaica and have been found wanting,” he said.

“We do not wish to fight with them; we just want an honest, fair and just anti-corruption agency. We do not wish to tear down, rather we seek to build, like the Electoral Commission, a world-class institution that others may seek to pattern. It is not beyond us, but we must remove egos and special agendas,” he said.