Columns

Vaz's cry of 'political mischief'

Franklin Johnston

Friday, August 17, 2018

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No one can accuse Daryl Vaz of modesty. If you or I did what it is reported that Vaz did with “the gun of a male companion” we would be in jail. Daryl will never be political roadkill, but he has a way about him.

The Jamaica Observer banner headline on Sunday, August 12, 2018 screamed, 'Vaz: We are targets', accompanied by “This is straight mischief... It is part of the trend over the last few weeks to target ministers.” Daryl is right. For the day he took our taxes as pay he put the target on his own forehead. Ministers are marked as there is a trust deficit; most prosper while we don't.

Vaz has claimed victim status, as a “continuous target”, and blamed “political operatives”, yet his Sunday flap was private, not Jamaica Labour Party or People's National Party. Based on what I read in the news article Prime Minister Andrew Holness should discipline him as a rogue minister. It was not his gun, not his fight, yet he stars in a police report, inveighs social media as “political mischief” set “to sabotage the Government”. Check the source of the sabotage, because media reports only spread the facts.

So, what are the issues? Modern airports are rules-based, secure, sterile spaces. Not to be self-referential, but I was served as a project manager and during my tenure we were lauded by the Drug Enforcement Administration is a United States and the Customs department as planes from Jamaica were no longer seized or millions paid in fines, and after 9/11 our planes were pre-cleared to New York when big nations had to queue. We have a reputation, and ministerial misconduct must not threaten it.

Does a minister have powers more than a citizen in an airport or on a flight? Why bully security doing their jobs well? Vaz said he “found it odd” officers gave a report to their chief without consulting him — overblown ego or minister's overreach? What else?

Airport and airline rules on guns and police orders may well have been breached. Who has jurisdiction over guns? MBJ Airports, who run the airport, or the police? Why the discrepancy? Did Vaz aid and abet firearm breach; foment division by a claim his private predicament is politics; bring Government into disrepute? Why did he buy out this gun matter?

There are also general issues. Will a police investigation be done? What is the chain of custody for guns on land and in-flight? What about pilot accountability, training and passenger safety? Are pilots who fly passengers' guns agents of Firearm Licensing Authority or the police? Did the pilot's group do risk analyses: Liability for hijack, loss, damage or death? We must get formal protocols now!

Several recommendations are implicit in these issues — some specific to the Vaz debacle. First, Daryl should be sanctioned and then apologise to officers and airport workers. He asked for a probe and we think Holness should empower one ASAP!

The police must do more public education and airports security updated as domestic and international are conjoined though separate. Domestic may need a firearm marshal and armory as airside leaks happen. Should guns move on certain flights only; pilots be trained in firearms; planes kitted for secure custody? Does a pilot compare the user's permit photo ID with the person before him? Or does a person just give him a gun (legal or illegal) and collect it after the flight, as reported on Sunday? Pilots also need gloves so their prints on a gun are not misused.

Reports from Peter Hall of MBJ Ltd, Vaz's version, and the police officer's do not agree. Which is true; police inspection, MBJ process or Daryl's “multiple experience doing the same routine”? Hall found “no breach”, yet the supervisor “told Vaz” he could not take the firearm through as the police would soon be there to inspect. What of workers Vaz dissed; employed still, no transfer; demoted or promoted for standing their ground?

Is this all really as Daryl says, “part of a well-orchestrated plan to seek or regain State power”, or divisive excuse of a minister caught in the glare of public scrutiny?

Politicians (not businessmen or civil servants) are our major node of corruption so we want security with backbone at airports!

Prime Minister Holness, let the probe begin! Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and teaches logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

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