Western News

Mayor breaks silence

Feuding Trelawny officials to meet with local gov't minister tomorrow

BY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporter

Thursday, August 22, 2019

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FALMOUTH, Trelawny — Mayor of Falmouth Councillor C Junior Gager has broken his silence over his absence from the parade which formed part of the official Trelawny Municipal Corporation's (TMC) Independence Day ceremony.

The mayor, who is also the chairman of the TMC has placed the blame for his absence squarely at the feet of Custos of Trelawny Paul Muschett, who he accused of overstepping his bounds and gave instruction for the inspection to commence at 10:25 am-----two minutes after his arrival, and five minutes ahead of the scheduled start.

During an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer West, Gager explained that he arrived at the municipal corporation building 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled 10:30am start of the function, which was held in the historic Water Square, a short distance away.

He noted that it was while he was awaiting to be queued by a coordinator on site at the ceremony that former mayor, Councillor Jonathan Bartley came running to inform him that the custos had given instructions for the inspection to start.

“The person on the ground doing the coordination had said to me that I should wait for her to beckon me for when the driver will take me around to the stand with escort. We were there when she beckoned me that I should now be prepared to go out and as we were there going out with the driver coming around to take me there was custos who entered on the stand, and Mr Bartley came to tell me that the function has started,” the mayor disclosed.

“I did not get to go on the march pass but I just held on to my composure and I went into the car and allowed the car to take me around to where the function was. We got out there and I went and took control of the function,” Gager insisted.

Since then, a protocol officer from the Office of the Prime Minister, during a meeting convened by Carol Dalling, the acting chief executive officer of the Trelawny Municipal Corporation, with Gager, Muschett and other stakeholders in attendance, has outlined the respective roles and duties of each individual during official ceremonies.

The mayor also refuted claims that he refused to shake the hands of the custos during a recent ceremony. In fact, he claimed while speaking with Mayor of St Ann's Bay, Councillor Michael Belnavis, he thought the custos intended to shake his hands. But he said the custos, with both hands started to squeeze his outstretched arm, demanding that he retract statements he made in the media.

“I thought he really wanted a hand shake and I extended my hand and he held on to my hand and started to jerk it back and forth saying 'retract what you put in the paper, return my land to commercial use'. So, I said to him, Custos, 'let go of my hand, he still held it and was squeezing my hand and I said 'let go of my hand I will not bow to you'. He let go, and I told him to move from before me and go to your seat and he complied. That was the story,” Gager claimed.

He told the Observer West that “I have been having some of the hardest times with Custos.”

Gager also revealed that he and the custos have been summoned to a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow, by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie.

The Falmouth mayor claimed that the strained relationship between the custos and members of the municipal has been festering since 2010 during his first stint as mayor, when Muschett, according to the TMC chairman, accused the then parish council of changing a parcel of land he owns from commercial to agricultural.

Gager charged that after his demand was not met, the custos started verbally attacking him and the director of planning.

Upon his return to the helm of the TMC following the 2017 Local Government polls, Gager noted that “the problem resurfaced”.

The mayor, who accused the custos of meddling in the affairs of the municipality, alleged that Muschett has accused the municipal corporation of approving buildings without adhering to the Georgian architecture, and expressed concerns over the approval of a hotel by the TMC.

When contacted yesterday, the custos refused to comment on the allegations.

“I have no comment. I have never made any comment to the media and I don't want to make any comment now. I don't want to embroil the situation anymore. We are supposed to be having a meeting to clarify all the issues and I don't want to say anything to interrupt that process,” Muschett told the Observer West.


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