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Black River mayor wants contractor general to apologise

'Say sorry, Dirk'

Friday, May 09, 2014    

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BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — Mayor of Black River Everton Fisher wants Contractor General Dirk Harrison to "humbly apologise" to May Pen mayor and chairman of the Association of Local Government Authorities (ALGA), Scean Barnswell, for an alleged slight at a function in May Pen recently.

"I believe the only thing for the contractor general to do is to humbly apologise to the chairman of the Clarendon Parish Council and the president of ALGA," Fisher told the St Elizabeth Parish Council at its monthly meeting yesterday.

Fisher was reacting to news reports that Harrison had instigated a move for Barnswell to leave a meeting they were both attending in May Pen on the grounds that he (Harrison) wasn't comfortable with Barnswell's presence.

Barnswell is before the courts on a charge of attempting to mislead the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) in relation to an investigation into the alleged illegal construction of shops at the Spalding Market in North West Clarendon.

However, in a new release late yesterday, the OCG denied that Harrison had asked that Barnswell leave the meeting.

Instead, the release said, the contractor general had pointed out to host of the function, Custos of Clarendon William Shagoury, the legal implications of "contact" between "witnesses" and "accused" in criminal matters.

"...The contractor general, in keeping with convention, was merely ensuring that the matter involving Mayor Barnswell would not be perceived to have any taint of impropriety through inappropriate contact.

"The OCG feels compelled to highlight that legal protocols require that witnesses avoid all contact with an accused in cases where the matter is to be adjudicated by a criminal court. This time-honoured practise is simply what was being observed by the contractor general.

"The OCG must also respectfully assert that, as public servants, we must at all times be mindful of the risks associated with interactions with an accused, particularly, the message that same sends to the public and the potential damage that any perception held could bear upon the case," the release said.

Speaking at yesterday's council meeting in Black River prior to circulation of the release from the OCG, Fisher said those elected by the people should be given due respect.

"All 63 members of parliament were elected by the people. All 228 councillors were elected by the people," said Fisher, who is the ruling People's National Party councillor for the Balaclava Division.

"We didn't walk into a seat, we were voted for and I believe all our elected officials of this country, Jamaica land we love, should be treated with the highest regard and given the highest respect; and I repeat, I believe the contractor general should humbly apologise to member Scean Barnswell," said Fisher.

He noted that the law required that people be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Fisher received verbal support from Errol Hummingbird and Audie Myers, PNP councillors for the Ipswich and Siloah divisions, respectively. There was no dissent.

Hummingbird suggested that local authorities should consider stronger action, including "demonstrations", should Harrison fail to apologise; while Myers wondered about the role in the alleged slight to Barnswell -- not only of Harrison but of those who organised the programme.

However, Fisher said he had no wish to dwell on such talk, noting that the council had full confidence in, and respect for the OCG.

However, he said, "I think that this notion that all politicians are good for nothing or have other motives must stop. And whether you belong to the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) or the PNP, the time has come when we must say to people of Jamaica ...we were elected by the people and being elected we must be respected by all until the other time comes."

— Garfield Myers

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