Thu | Oct 17, 2019

Editorial | Now that Gager, Muschett have called truce

Published:Friday | September 20, 2019 | 12:25 AM

It’s good for Trelawny that the head of its municipal corporation, Collen Gager, and the parish’s custos, Paul Muschett, have agreed to put aside their cudgels, which they sealed with a public handshake in Falmouth last week. Perhaps they can now get on with the business, as both men promised, of “working together” for the benefit of Trelawny.

Hopefully, though, the path to this arrangement involved a frank assessment of the cause of their differences and the resolution isn’t just the transference of a public spectacle to a behind-the-scenes passive-aggressive relationship.

As chairman of the municipal corporation and, by dint of office, mayor of Falmouth – a charming little town with a slew of Georgian buildings, many of which are in serious disrepair – Mayor Gager has much authority in managing the affairs of the parish. As custos, Mr Muschett, the scion of a land-owning family in the parish, is the governor general’s representative in Trelawny. But he has more than a ceremonial role. He, for instance, manages the roster of justices of the peace in Trelawny and co-chairs, along with the mayor, the parish’s disaster preparedness committee.

DISRESPECTING OFFICE

But according to Mr Gager, Mr Muschett, whom he has visibly snubbed at public functions, often attempted to lord it over him. Based on Mr Gager’s account, there was disrespect for his office. Fundamental to their mutual grievance, though, were differences of how to maintain Falmouth’s heritage. The custos didn’t believe that Mayor Gager was sufficiently protective of the town’s architectural legacy.

We, however, perceived deeper personality, and perhaps, sociological, issues at play. These, we hope, were recognised and aired rather than just papered over by Desmond McKenzie, the local government minister, in his discussions with the parties. For much is at stake.

Falmouth is home to one of the Caribbean’s major cruise ship piers and is Trelawny’s growing hub for land-based tourism. The area, too, is important to agriculture.

But even though Trelawny is important to Jamaica’s economy, the parish has a long way to go to achieve its full development potential. What it ultimately accomplishes will depend not only on the policies of the central government but also the care and efficiency with which municipal officials, including Messrs Gager and Muschett, exercise their responsibilities. If they pull against each other, things could very well become badly stressed, if not broken.

This doesn’t mean that both men also have to agree on all matters. They just have to resolve differences maturely, always keeping at the fore the interests of the people of Trelawny and Jamaica.