Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Is Holness saying he’s fitter than Portia?

Published:Wednesday | December 9, 2015 | 12:14 AM
Andrew Holness, leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, uses push-ups to show off to supporters that he is fitter than Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller during a mass rally in Spanish Town, St Catherine, on November 8.

"I can't deal with this damn election campaign anymore," said a rural-area politician to me. "It's like fixing a bathroom pipe that was dripping and disturbing my sleep, then going back to bed and the pipe start to drip again. Stressing me out! I am far from it, but I feel like 80 years old."

A noted but hardly commented-on feature of the 2008 presidential elections was the young and obviously fit Senator Barack Obama doing a slow sprint up the steps to every podium he spoke from. The much older Senator John McCain had to take his time walking slowly up to his podium. The contrast was obvious.

There are many things in this country that are ill and diseased and need fixing. If it can be said that our political leaders were pressured into fixing one of those broken things and they responded quite positively by dealing with it, the finger can be pointed at our electoral system.

First, it was an advisory committee, then it became a pure committee, until it eventually morphed into a fully fledged Electoral Commission of Jamaica. But it was not without its pain. In 1980 when the so-called Integrity Lamp (ultraviolet light to detect multiple voting) was introduced for the first time, all did not go as planned.


The impossible


With a huge 16 per cent swing to the JLP from the 1976 election to 1980, and with a bumper turnout of 88 per cent islandwide, two garrison constituencies still managed to record the impossible. South West St Andrew had a voter turnout of 105 per cent, where the contest between the PNP's Portia Simpson and Tom Tavares-Finson of the JLP ended in a wipeout for the latter.

In the nearby constituency of South St Andrew where the PNP firebrand Tony Spaulding ran against someone named Egbert Beadle on the JLP ticket, Spaulding meted out the expected trouncing of his rival, but not before the constituency recorded a 102 per cent turnout.

So the general health of our electoral system has improved immensely. Looking on and witnessing what took place recently at the internal election fiasco at Tennis Jamaica, we can be proud that our Electoral Office is being called on as an entity of integrity to clean up where others have failed.

In the last few weeks of election campaigning and on social media, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness has come under fire, where he is being asked to explain his construction of a rather impressive and opulent-looking mansion in the upscale community of Beverly Hills. In response, he has made the promise to reveal his financial records, along with his health records.

The implication in this is quite obvious. Last time I checked, no one was quizzing him on his physical health. Only the state of his financial wealth or very lack of it. With the young JLP leader throwing in the part about his medical records when not a single person anywhere was asking for them, it is quite obvious that he hopes to provoke a similar response from the prime minister. Is Andrew Holness playing games with us, or with himself?

Those of us who live here and even those overseas have heard all sorts of rumours about which set of politicians have mansions abroad, which ones are gay, and those who treat promiscuity like just another stroll by the beach. The price that a person pays for going public as a politician is that he or she gives up much of whatever privacy one had, while accepting that the rumour mill is forever churning out the latest chapter.


Veiled snipe


So the question is this. Is Andrew Holness implying that he is 100 per cent fit, while the prime minister is not? And, even if he knew something that we do not know, and more than the possibility exists that the lady who is prime minister of all of Jamaica is not quite up to the 100 per cent limit, who does he think he is impressing by this veiled snipe at the PM's health?

It is said that party politics is a contact sport, and we know that in a contact sport, everything is on the table. The obvious is that Mr Holness is quite young at 43, while the prime minister turns 70 on the 12th of this month.

Both politicians are known to be Christian and churchgoers, so Mr Holness ought to know about the 'three score and ten' bit. The prime minister's age must, therefore, be celebrated, and the state of her health must never be something to be toyed with by a desperate politician.

- Mark Wignall is a political analyst. Email feedback to and Blog