Thu | Dec 7, 2023

Meadows: ‘No intention to withdraw’ comment

Statement from Parliament rebuffs suggestion that it withheld document exonerating FLA’s deputy chairman

Published:Friday | September 8, 2023 | 12:06 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Dennis Meadows

FORMER DEPUTY chairman of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) Dennis Meadows has rubbished a call by the Speaker of the House, president of the Senate, and clerk to the Houses of Parliament for him to “immediately” withdraw a comment suggesting that a cover letter from the Integrity Commission clearing him of allegations of misconduct was withheld by Parliament.

“If anybody here needs to demonstrate some decency, at the very least it is the clerk of the House (who should) afford me the decency to say ‘I am sorry’,” said Meadows in a Gleaner interview.

A statement from Parliament yesterday charged that Meadows’ suggestion that Parliament withheld a document that exonerated him, which it was required to table, was “categorically false”.

“Decency would require that Mr Meadows, who is a former senator, immediately withdraw the aforementioned allegation, which runs the risk, without any credible basis, of bringing the institution of the Parliament into disrepute,” the statement said.

According to the statement, Parliament at all times carries out its duties with the highest degree of integrity, probity, and transparency.

“It has never been the practice for the Parliament to discriminate against any individual or organisation as we undertake our solemn constitutional responsibilities.”

But Meadows was defiant, saying he had no intention of withdrawing his comments on the matter.

“I am an aggrieved person. It is my reputation that has suffered irreparable damage. I have no intention to withdraw. Rather, I think it is Parliament’s tragedy of errors whether wittingly or unwittingly.”

He charged that Parliament owes him an apology.

He said as a former member of the Senate, he should be “afforded the kind of respect and dignity, the same thing that they demanded as it relates to the prime minister”.

Director of Investigations at the Integrity Commission, Kevon Stephenson, referred Meadows to the Director of Corruption Prosecutions Keisha Prince-Kameka for her to determine whether the former deputy chairman of the FLA’s approval of a firearm licence for a family member amounted to an explicit act of nepotism.

The statement from the legislature indicated that the report of investigation into allegations concerning acts of impropriety, irregularity, and corruption in the issuance of firearm user licences to persons of ‘questionable character’ dated January 2020 was tabled along with the physical tabling of the cover letter from the Integrity Commission.

However, while Parliament stated that the cover letter clearing Meadows had been physically tabled, the document was not sent to the media and other stakeholders.

Meadows said he only knew he was cleared by the director of corruption prosecutions after he wrote to her in August this year, enquiring about the outcome of the referral made by Stephenson.

This was about a year and a half after the ruling was “tabled” but not sent to the media.

Yesterday, Meadows said: “I checked both the Parliament’s and the IC’s websites and neither have the (Greg) Christie letter that is referred to in Parliament’s statement.”

Responding to a query from Julian Robinson on how cover letters containing rulings from the DCP were handled by Parliament at a meeting of the Integrity Commission Oversight Committee on March 29, 2023, Clerk to the Houses of Parliament Valrie Curtis admitted that “the letter is not read out in Parliament”.

Meadows, however, contended that “all public servants, whether former or current, must be afforded the courtesies extended to the prime minister in his case as it relates to the Westcon report”.

Further, he said that the Parliament’s inaction and failure to table the report caused him reputational damage.

“The Integrity Commission has its failings, but in this matter, I believe where I would probably hold them responsible a little bit is that they should have posted it on their website. But in the main, they did what they were required to do by law – they submitted both the FLA report with a cover letter stating their ruling.

“It is Parliament, in my view, that should demonstrate some decency given that I was a former member of the Senate to say I messed up, I am sorry.”

Meadows said he regarded the Speaker and president of the Senate as friends. He said he had no evidence to suggest that they did anything untoward.

Excerpts from the statement from Parliament:

Following an examination of the records at hand, the Parliament states categorically the following:

1. A report entitled Special Report of Investigation: Allegations Concerning Acts of Impropriety, Irregularity and Corruption in the Issuance of Firearm User Licenses to Persons of ‘Questionable Character was received by Parliament on February 24, 2022, and tabled in the House of Representatives on March 8, 2022. The referenced report was subsequently tabled in the Senate on March 25, 2022. We enclose the front page of the report in evidence thereof.

2. Along with the aforementioned report, Parliament received a cover letter dated February 22, 2022, which was signed by Executive Director of the Integrity Commission, Mr. Greg Christie. On March 8, 2022, the immediately aforementioned letter, sent by Mr. Christie, was also tabled in the House of Representatives along with the earlier referenced report.

The cover letter was subsequently also tabled in the Senate on March 25, 2022. A copy of the letter is also attached to this statement.

3. At no time did the Parliament ever receive any report on this matter written by the Director of Corruption Prosecution, Mrs. Keisha Prince-Kameka.

4. Reference was made by Mr. Christie in the aforementioned cover letter to a ruling by the Director of Corruption Prosecution. This letter was tabled along with the report.

5. Subsequent to the physical tabling of the report and cover letter, the Parliament, following the instructions in the cover letter from the Integrity Commission, uploaded all the contents of the USB flash drive received from the Integrity Commission to the Parliament’s website and distributed same electronically to stakeholders.