Local Government Minister Noel Arscott has made a commendable about-turn on the flag fiasco, moving from shrugging it off as basically unimportant, to apologising to the country for “the inadvertent misuse of the colours of the Jamaican flag” and ordering an investigation into the sordid affair.
We note also that the Government has cashiered one of its special advisors, Mr Courtney Hume, whom it is alleged gave the instruction for the green to be left off the backdrop designed to depict the flag, in the interest of time.
We get the sense, though, that until the decorator, Mr Denton Edwards, gave his side of the story, the Government was prepared to ride out this disgraceful display of disrespect for one of our national symbols, probably hoping that it would become another nineday wonder.
Readers will recall that the first response last Tuesday from the newly installed mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Glendon Harris, was an apology, followed by a ridiculous explanation of what led to the fiasco, and a foolish attempt to absolve himself.
Two days later, Mayor Harris told the country that Mr Edwards had decided to refund the $30,000 he was paid for decorating the room at the Montego Bay Civic Centre for the March 29 swearing-in of new councillors in the St James Parish Council.
“I have spoken to the decorator and he has accepted full responsibility, and he has further indicated that he will repay the money which he collected, with a view to see if he can level the situation with the council,” Mayor Harris said.
However, the following day, Mr Edwards denied the mayor’s claims, saying he had no intention of repaying the money as he was out of pocket.
Mr Edwards also denied an earlier claim by the mayor that the green was missing from the flag backdrop because the decorator had run short of material.
According to Mr Edwards, there was no shortage of green cloth to complete the task. In fact, he said, he would have been able to complete the backdrop depicting the Jamaican Flag if he was afforded the opportunity so to do.
We can’t ignore the possibility that Mayor Harris may well have been misinformed at the time he first spoke on this issue. However, he will not be able to make that claim in relation to his second pronouncement regarding the decorator’s promise.
So now, the country is left with two versions of the story which, we expect, will be thoroughly examined and the truth revealed by the investigation ordered by the Government.
If it turns out that it is Mr Edwards who is being less than generous with the truth, then the parish council authorities will decide how they relate to him in the future. If, however, the probe uncovers that it is Mayor Harris who is being dishonest, he would have no option but to step down, as he would have lost the trust of the Jamaican people.
As we await the outcome of the investigation, we must commend the decision by the Government to provide training in the protocols relating to the appropriate use of our national symbols to all municipal service employees and private contractors engaged by them.
Hopefully, that will prevent a recurrence of the Montego Bay folly.