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EDITORIAL - When a statement is not enough

Published:Friday | April 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

This week, Jamaicans finally heard from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller on the Montego Bay flag fiasco - well, sort of. Fresh from attending the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, Mrs Simpson Miller put up a stout defence of her Government's handling of the simmering controversy which saw the green being omitted from a replica of the Jamaican flag used as a backdrop at the swearing in of St James councillors. There are indications this was a deliberate act since green is the colour associated with the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party.

Mrs Simpson Miller said she had issued instructions from Colombia for a statement to be issued on the matter and that that had been done. She made light of the issue while speaking at a function in Hellshire, St Catherine. Instead of confronting the matter, she drew attention to the white backdrop and the black, green and gold colours of the flag as part of the stage decoration. There is a feeling that the prime minister's response fell short of what was needed to send a message of unity to the country.

It would be naïve to treat this controversy as a purely People's National Party problem. Tribalism runs deep in the veins of many party supporters. There are other recent reports of partisan acts being carried out in parish councils. The country expects to hear condemnation that is direct and forceful. Many are looking to the prime minister to set the tone that will lift this country from its grim partisan syndrome by focusing on national efforts to take Jamaica to new heights.

Many voices - from the Opposition, civil society, social commentators and some government officials - rang out about the flag fiasco. The critical missing voice was the prime minister's.

A time to speak

While we appreciate that Mrs Simpson Miller has her own leadership style and wants to allow ministers to do their job, let's not forget the exhortation of the Good Book, which says there is a time to speak and a time to refrain from speaking. This, we submit, is a time to speak up.

We applaud portfolio minister Noel Arscott for taking responsibility for the fiasco. He has ordered an investigation, the results of which we await. Needless to say, in-house enquiries do not always achieve the best results, for they tend to be mindful of the need to limit the fallout for leaders who might otherwise face embarrassment if the whole truth is ever told.

It should be noted that Mr Arscott has taken a much more sensible approach than that adopted by the brash, incoming mayor who has arrogantly declared that he was done with the issue and appears unwilling to countenance further discussions on the matter. From trying to obfuscate to blaming the decorator, Mr Glendon Harris has given a good indication of the type of leadership he will provide for the St James Parish Council.

The Government enjoys a huge mandate, and if the prime minister is earnest about uniting this country and using bipartisanship as a model for development, she should prevail on Mr Harris and those of like mind who may be reluctant to commit to a future without partisan politics.

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