THE mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Glendon Harris, made the correct first step of apologising this week for the display of disrespect for one of our national symbols at the recent swearing-in of St James parish councillors.
However, no sooner than he had done so, Mayor Harris — the first citizen of that tourist resort city — stepped three paces backward with his nonsensical explanation of the fiasco that resulted in the colour green being omitted from a stage backdrop designed to depict the Jamaican flag.
Mayor Harris did not help his cause, either, by trying to absolve himself of blame in the matter.
“Someone,” he told this newspaper, “was contracted to do the decoration, and the only time I knew that was when I was authorising the payment for it. So I have nothing to do with it.”
According to the mayor, he was advised by his technical staff that the persons contracted to do the job had said that “they ran short of material”.
Even more balderdash!
Mayor Harris, we hold, would have done better had he stopped speaking after apologising, because his other statements suggest that he, his technical staff and the contractors — if they are being reported correctly — regard the Jamaican people as fools.
We would have thought that the mayor, on entering the building for the civic ceremony and seeing the disrespect to a national symbol, would have refused to participate in the function and given instructions for the backdrop to be completed.
And if, as reported by former Mayor Charles Sinclair — who amazingly participated in the ceremony without protest — the instruction to the contractors was for the backdrop to depict the Jamaican flag, why then did Mayor Harris authorise the payment to the contractors?
We are in no position to state that the omission of the green from the backdrop was rooted in partisan politics. However, one can hardly blame supporters of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) for believing so, especially given the disgraceful behaviour of some supporters of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) at a few other parish council swearing-in ceremonies in recent days.
The greater point, though, is that no one should be allowed to disrespect the symbols that define us as a sovereign nation. That was why we were very critical of the antics of Messrs Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake during the playing of our National Anthem at last year’s World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
In the Montego Bay fiasco, Mayor Harris may well have not had a role in the planning of the ceremony, however he cannot — as the chairman of the parish council — wash his hands like Pontius Pilate and declare himself free of responsibility.
If that is how he plans to run the local government body, then God help the people of Montego Bay and the wider St James.