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Are Holness, PSM leadership material?

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Leadership is often said to be the most pivotal issue in Jamaica's political fortunes. Who has it and who doesn't.

Leadership involves enunciating a position and charting a course for a desired result within a specific time frame. This is applicable to a group of people or an organisation. It becomes even more thought-provoking where the group of persons who are to be led form themselves by voluntary assent into an organisation. In the case of Jamaica, it becomes even more complex in the absence of an ideological bond to share common principle outside of the quest for power.

The ability to lead is rooted in inherent and learned traits. You may be a natural leader of persons. You may dominate the room by your personality, intellect and presence. These are only part of the ability to lead. Other considerations are centred around the forging of consensus to achieve objectives and implement agreed-upon strategies.

I was recently asked to give an opinion on the two current leaders of our major political parties. This was to be done within the confines of a definition of leadership.

Portia Simpson Miller (PSM), leader of the governing People's National Party, brought to mind the word 'veneer'. Though she has wide-ranging responsibility, her actions do not convey that there is depth in the analysis of any significant topic. This she acknowledges by her very statement that she has ministers to address those issues.

She always has to be briefed by the minister of finance. She is very busy working, working, working. Her grasp of ideas is veneer - a mile wide but an inch deep. Read the prepared speech, make the pronouncements, but take no questions that seek explanation and elucidation for the greater good of the country.

Have you heard the prime minister speak on the user-fee policy for the health sector or the need to change our acceptance of the current viability of the Grade Six Achievement Test in the education portfolio? What is her position on the need to revisit the labour laws as they relate to security guards and their status as contract workers? She was a minister of labour.

Andrew Holness, leader of the Jamaica Labour Party and holder of the constitutional office of leader of the parliamentary Opposition, is urbane, well-spoken, educated and engaging, but is that all that is required of a leader?




Among the characteristics of good leadership is the ability to mould disparate groups into a united front; mastery of the art of conflict resolution, leading to the absence of recrimination and vindictiveness; and steady progress towards shared goals. Has Holness displayed these styles of leadership?

Reliance on the tired and often-used phrase about moving the country from 'poverty to prosperity', without setting out the pathway to achieve that, is useless. The Senate is an unknown, as far as he is concerned. There still isn't cross-party consensus on the matter of the Caribbean Court of Justice. The use of raw power in the undated letters, already signed, hanging as the noose over the heads of opposition senators was rather crude for the 21st century. That prop has been removed, so now he does not know what action is to be expected on the party's stated position.

The leadership style of Mr Holness suggests, 'my intent was honourable'. The courts found otherwise, yet he has not been sanctioned by the party. He has disrespected the people of this country. Look at how he dealt with the Othneil Lawrence matter? What is different? When he is challenged, his retort is, 'You are not in touch with the people.'

Here, through this medium, I wish to challenge Andrew Holness to a debate on the leadership required for Jamaica at this time. I am throwing down the gauntlet in my capacity as a citizen of this country and one concerned with our future. Let us do it publicly.

Mr Holness, you, sir, say you are the future. What do you offer us? I am not affiliated with either of the major political parties. I am by choice not on the voters' list. If offered an opportunity to become an elected politician, I will refuse. If co-opted, I will not serve any political party. I will continue to serve my country, outside of any political party, to the best of my ability.

Articles in the Sunday, May 24, 2015 edition of this newspaper, by Bruce Golding on 'The problem with CARICOM (Part 2 is published on today's In Focus front page) and the Rev Dr Garnett Roper on 'CCJ resistance proves JLP just can't think', offered a platform for comparing political reasoning. The former prime minister was logical, cogent and supported his reasoning with fact and inquiry. I anticipate part 2. The article by Rev Roper was devoid of any reasoning, either deductive or logical. Here was drivel in the form of partisan pontification. That is the current state of political discourse in today's Jamaica. God help us all.

- Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to and