More questions than answers
Despite knowing that the brouhaha over the unfortunate omission of the colour green in a facsimile of the national flag at the swearing-in ceremony for the newly-installed Montego Bay Mayor was politically motivated, I must admit the JLP skillfully manipulated the absence of the green and fanned the flame of national pride.
From the responses to the foul up, in this the 50th year of our independence, it is heartening to know that despite the socio-economic woes facing this country, our national symbols are still revered by all Jamaicans - be they residents of Jamaica or in the Diaspora. That is laudable, however, this sense of national pride must not only be demonstrated when the physical symbols are unwittingly traduced, it must become a constant as we tackle the multiplicity of problems affecting this country.
The firestorm over the national flag seems to be abating; frankly, it should not have begun in the first place, neither should Mayor Glendon Harris have been pilloried. I happen to believe that former Montego Bay Mayor Charles Sinclair and the other three JLP councilors in the St. James Parish Council know that Mayor Harris had nothing to do with the foul up. In fact, their only problem with Harris is that he did not immediately feed Courtney Hume; the so-called protocol officer; to the media at the beginning of the feeding frenzy.
SENSE OF PRIDE
If that’s the case, we must ask ourselves, why the JLP did unfairly politicize the omission of the green. Were they trying to cheaply pander to Jamaicans’ sense of pride in our national symbols or did they latch on to an unfortunate omission which would prove to be an incendiary topic in order to remain relevant as a political entity following two massive electoral rejections by the Jamaican people?
I truly think that was their goal and I will say they successfully made a mountain out of a mole hill. I was in the audience, I didn’t notice the omission, it wasn’t even noticed by the JLP supporters at the event.
While the national media and members of the Diaspora bought into the JLP’s machination of the flag fiasco, neither has sought to carefully analyse the role of the JLP on that unfortunate day. They have not exhaustively investigated the role of the administrative arm of the council or the role of the Chief Returning Officer for St. James, and that’s a pity. Like sharks in a roiling sea of blood, they only zeroed in on Harris.
From my investigations, I learnt that the planning and execution of the swearing-in ceremony is the responsibility of both the administrative arm of the council and the chief electoral officer for the parish. I also happen to know that Mr. Winston Palmer delegated responsibility for the ceremony to a senior officer of the St. James Parish Council. It was this officer who ceded control of the event to Hume.
Shouldn’t the chief electoral officer for St. James be held equally responsible, and even more so than Mayor Harris who had no part in the planning and implementation of the ceremony or prior view of the controversial backdrop?
FRONT ROW SEATS
Let me state unequivocally, all councillors, including the four JLP, had front row seats which gave them an unblocked view of the backdrop. Also, the Custos of St. James was one of the earliest arrivals and should have seen the backdrop. As the local representative of the Queen, did he notice anything amiss from the facsimile? If he did, shouldn’t he have done one of two things; either point out the omission or walk out? The fact that the Custos remained for the ceremony tells me that he either didn’t notice the omission or he did not ascribe the omission as an act of political vindictiveness by the PNP or Mayor Harris.
As for the JLP, when did they become aware of the omission? If they saw the omission before or during the ceremony and thought it was politically inspired, why didn’t they get up and walk out of the ceremony en masse? If they thought it was a deliberate political slight of the JLP, why did they stay to be sworn in? Knowing all four men and their mindset I have no doubt that if they had either seen the mistake or thought it was done deliberately they would have walked out in protest and run to the media bawling about political vindictiveness by the PNP.
They didn’t even bawl out about Sinclair being heckled! That was in bad taste and should be soundly repudiated. Irrespective of who forms government, civility towards each other must obtain; we are all Jamaicans and as the brouhaha has indicated, as Jamaicans we still have an affinity for institutions.
Hindsight is 20/20 vision; from my investigation I have learnt that the former mayor was concerned about Hume’s undue haste in going forward with the swearing-in ceremony. Hume differed with the Mayor and read from a handbook the provision in law which mandated when the swearing-in of the Council should be done.
In my opinion, as an experienced politician with hands on reputation, the former mayor, an avowed nationalist, erred or was he washing his hands of the ceremony? I suspect that he gave Hume enough rope to hang himself but what a price we as a nation has paid?