Man charged a 'processing fee' of $150,000 for a gun licence
Stabroek News
March 3, 2004

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Dear Editor,

A young businessman showed me a letter dated February 12, 2004 signed by Floyd McDonald granting him a firearm licence. It was, according to him, presented to him by Minister Gajraj and not the Commander or Commissioner on 25/2/04.

He had, several months ago, approached me for a recommendation designed to favour him with a licenced firearm and I declined to do so on learning that the application and recommendations were a formality but the processing fee of the order of $150,000.00, a non-negotiable necessity.

He was proud to tell me that he was required to meet Gajraj who made no requests for an honorarium for the licence. He indicated that "the gift to the state" which he made to the local police station was in order to expedite his application process. Without it, he said, his application would never have reached its intended destination. No receipt was given or requested.

Aware of many such accounts, I indicated at the Disciplined Services Commission Enquiry, that the process of granting firearm licences should be removed from the Minister and Commissioner and put into the hands of men and women of unassailable integrity. Chairman Ian Chang, Justice of Appeal, indicated to me that the power to grant a licence falls within the purview of the Commanding Officer for the area in which the applicant resides.

I indicated to him that in this country law and practice are divergent concepts and what he was describing was not the reality. This was corroborated by Tony Vieira, who, with a court order, went to the commander of his area for his gun licence, only to be told that matters such as these are handled by his superiors. I emphasised the need for transparency and suggested that for their own protection from adverse criticism it would be better to have a Board tasked with this responsibility.

The admission by the individual performing the functions of DPP, a description not recognised by the Constitution, that one law officer recommended a murder charge against Axel Williams while another officer overruled that lawyer and recommended an inquest is a most disturbing revelation. It is axiomatic that the overruling had to be done by or with the concurrence of the DPP who was the accountable individual. The DPP at the time was Denis Hanomansingh. Despite this, Mr Floyd McDonald subsequently signed an upgrade for a gun licence for Axel Williams.

Immediately following the demise of Axel Williams there was a flurry of speed and efficiency of Olympian proportions from a police force hitherto known for its inertia.

Having regard to what has been outlined above was the decision of Mc Donald to upgrade the firearm licence of Axel Williams, fingered in at least one murder, therefore free and voluntary or was he directed so to do? If it were made without directives how does he explain the issuance of the licence to a man allegedly implicated in a murder enquiry/inquest.

His silence" is construed by the public as a political ploy to obfuscate and conceal the very evidence being demanded as a pre-condition for an enquiry. He should therefore, provide further and better particulars on this issue.

Officialdom seems to have a convenient amnesia and forgets that in the scandalous Paul Slowe saga the court, by demanding reasons why the directive to transfer Slowe should not be quashed, was impliedly saying that the Minister was micro-managing the force. I am informed by counsel for Slowe and verily believe that to date no reply has been submitted.

Our young President is asking the public to accept his conclusions without affording the public an opportunity to examine the evidence. To paraphrase him, he is saying that there is nothing in the closet and while he publicly espouses transparency he is forbidding the public to look into it. While those with unquestioning loyalty and devotion might well accept such posturing it is an insult to the intelligence of a discerning public and inappropriate in a bitterly divided country.

Apologists are claiming that what is needed is evidence while the public legitimately wants answers. If this is not excuse for a cover-up and there is a genuine desire to investigate let us begin with statements from the previous Commissioner and the Minister of Home Affairs on the process which led to the Axel Williams upgrade. The Minister may wish to indicate, chapter and verse, where he found the authority and propriety, not to mention the time, to meet applicants.

Yours faithfully,

Walter Ramsahoye