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EDITORIAL - Does Hugh Solomon's spirit rest in Mayor Harris?

Published:Friday | April 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM

The last time the People's National Party (PNP) controlled the mayorship of Montego Bay with a tenure of significant recollection was when a hapless gentleman with the surname of Solomon occupied the job and presided over the city during the infamous street people affair.

Mayor Hugh Solomon used to respond to issues, it seemed, with struggled quarter sentences, or with metaphoric fingers in his ears and hands over eyes and mouth. His time passed, for the better.

This newspaper, however, is desperately worried that there may have been a reincarnation in Glendon Harris, who this week formally became chairman of the St James Parish Council. The mayorship goes with that job.

It would be a great shame should the ghost of Hugh Solomon stalk the land. For we are impressed with several ideas contained in the PNP's manifesto for local government. We understand, however, that their successful implementation will demand solid, intellectually agile leadership in the parishes.

Desecration of flag

Our immediate concern with Mr Harris is his Solomonic, not sensible, waffle over the seeming political abuse of the Jamaica flag at his oath-taking function.

A huge 'flag', with pretensions to the Jamaican standard, formed the backdrop of the stage on which Mr Harris was ceremoniously robed in his gown and chain of office. Except that the flag was full black, but for its gold saltire. The green at the top and bottom, between the saltire, was missing.

Green happens to be the political colour of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which the PNP beat, first in December's general election, then in the municipal ones of March. It is widely assumed that the decorators left the green out for partisan reasons.

Now, faced with criticism, Mr Harris has apologised, conceding that "somebody messed up". Perhaps!

Where this newspaper has an issue with Mr Harris is his clumsy attempt at deflecting all responsibility. He doesn't want to be held to account.

Bumbling and fumbling

First, there is that silly statement about being "just a guest" at his own swearing-in. He only became aware of a problem when authorising the payment to organisers of the function.

Mr Harris didn't notice anything wrong.

He will, of course, appreciate that many people will find it hard to grasp that his being so disinterested in his oath-taking function, a big political day for himself and his party, the PNP machinery left its political opponents to organise the function. The implication is that the outgoing JLP mayor, and his staff, agreed to the decoration.

Such disinterest would call into question Mr Harris' suitability for the mayorship.

Assuming that Mr Harris was in the dark and that the set was designed by someone just being 'creative', there is the question about the political signal that person believed he or she had to proceed as was done. Or, was it a matter of ignorance on the part of the designer, which would call into question the council's system of procurement? Mr Harris' predecessor, Charles Sinclair, says the backdrop was to have been the Jamaica flag and believes that the green was deliberately dropped out. So do we.

If Mr Harris is to run a credible local government, he must quickly exorcise the ghost of Hugh Solomon who, if not an occupant of the mayor's parlour, appears resident in Mr Harris' psyche.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.