Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Is Portia Simpson Miller a coward?

Published:Friday | February 12, 2016 | 2:00 AMAndre Wright

"The people love me. Look at how many people turned up for nomination. They're all singing my name. Who can draw crowds like me? I am Mama!"

If I told you that was the stump speech of Angela Merkel as she courted support for the Christian Democrats, I could be called a con artist. But Angie wouldn't throw expensive lawyers at me; she's a bit more thick-skinned than some Jamaican politicians.

Thronged by a Praetorian Guard of public-relations shufflers, we have a prime minister whose fragile image has been more overhandled than a Cecil Baugh crackpot.

The latest salvo from Team PNP, the party's mouthpiece that manufactures press releases faster than Audley Shaw churns out election promises - and that's damn fast! - demonstrates just how prepared her minions are to contrive an excuse to duck the debates.

The PNP has desperately woven a web that has tangled every striking thing in the playbook: Holness' statement about the Sam Sharpe Square "act of terror"; meeting with the Qatar sex convict; the Beverly Hills mansion; the presigned Senate resignation letters; and Bobby Montague's ISIS idiocy. The only element missing is Holness' involvement in the assassination of JFK, and seeing that Bobby Montague has evidence of Jamaica's terrorist affiliation, that press release should be pinging in my mailbox just ... about ... now.

Jamaican elections are mainly marketed on emotion and tradition, with dribs and drabs of policy dressing squirted on. Televised debates are useful for audiences to assess candidates and party leaders as they engage on matters of foreign and domestic policy and critique each other's programmes and philosophies. The constituency radio debates on Nationwide FM, featuring candidates of both major political parties, have been refreshing in providing a platform for rivals to present their development plans or cite prior successes or failures.

 

POLITICAL HEAVYWEIGHT

 

Portia Simpson Miller's handlers, however, don't seem to trust her to open her mouth, and this lame-brained strategy has contributed to the impression that she has a capacity deficit.

But Simpson Miller is no shrinking violet, nor is she the unschooled incompetent that her Knight in shining armour, critic-turned-cheerleader implied she was in that brutal internal contest a decade ago.

The Simpson Miller victim narrative has become tired and old and her Comrades-in-arms should stop pandering for pity. For God's sake, she's a political heavyweight who has twice wrestled to the ground Peter Phillips and instils fear from the heirs apparent who dare not mention their presidential ambitions.

If the decision to have no further dialogue with the opposition leader is Mrs Simpson Miller's ruse to skip the debates, it exhibits an appalling lack of judgement. Perhaps at 70 years old, she still hasn't learnt to give the Warmington (all six inches) to her self-important, overindulgent nannies and be her own woman. Simpson Miller must grow up. (Oh, yes, Jennifer Edwards, this is your cue to clamber out of a skip to scream disrespect, chauvinism and sexism. You and the PNP Women's Movement talk a lot of your expertise: garbage. Speaking of garbage, disposal trucks only make guest appearances in my neighbourhood. Fix that!)

I'm not sure why the PNP election machinery is opting for a tactic of puerile distraction. So what if Andrew Holness called the fatal shooting of two men in Sam Sharpe Square "an act of terror"? Should the JLP demand a similar withdrawal from Portia Simpson Miller for labelling a quadruple murder in Hayes, Clarendon, in April 2015 "an act of terror"? Is that basis for refusal for debating policy affecting the lives of every Jamaican?

Bobby Montague made an ass of himself and sullied Jamaica's reputation by suggesting that ISIS was a supplier to Jamaica's petroleum industry. Keith Walford, like a fool-fool sound selector, said he wants to turn South West St Ann into a garrison, a word that reflects the worst kinds of violence and victimisation in Jamaican politics. Are those grounds to refuse a debate on policy affecting the lives of Jamaicans?

Portia Simpson Miller threatens to take Holness to the cleaners for a "con artist" imputation, even though she referred to him as an "enemy of the State" in 2013. Is that a sound reason to refuse to debate policy?

Maybe Andrew Holness should've used a different C-word to characterise Portia Simpson Miller. Coward.

- Andre Wright is opinion editor of The Gleaner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.