Sun | Aug 19, 2018

Comrade Obama? - Portia gets political bounce from US president

Published:Sunday | April 12, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and US President Barack Obama were like old friends during his visit to the island.
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller are flanked by American officials (left) and members of the Jamaican Cabinet during bilateral talks at Jamaica House, Kingston, last Thursday.

Brand Jamaica, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and her administration, and the people of Jamaica have been declared big winners from the recent visit of United States President Barack Obama.

Political commentator, attorney-at-law Dr Paul Ashley, said Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller scored big points as head of the Government who was able to secure the visit of the president of the free world.

"President Obama demonstrated that with charisma, and a relationship with any crowd, he is in the class of Michael Manley. It would have been very sad for Jamaica not to have the presence of a black United States president during his presidency.

"So it's huge kudos to Portia and her administration to have such a president visit during his and her tenure, being the first woman prime minister here as well," said Ashley.

"It shows the importance of Jamaica's geopolitical space in the region. By choosing Jamaica, it means that the president has tremendous respect for the leadership that Jamaica has provided regionally and globally, and it further shows that our geographical location is not the only thing of interest to the United States," added Ashley.

Head of the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies, Dr Lloyd Waller, said while Brand Jamaica was the huge winner, the Government and the prime minister gained bragging rights.

"The young people, the University of the West Indies, reggae, Jamaican pride were big winners. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller distinguished herself by showing that she can host and engage the United States president in our country. So the country wins. Our security forces were winners, too," said Waller.




He argued that the images of Obama visiting the Bob Marley museum were priceless for the Marley Foundation and the country.

Although not specifically addressed, Waller said there were gains by the lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgender (LGBT) community, as it was not by accident that a known lesbian was the first person referenced by Obama, when he addressed young leaders in Mona.

According to Weller, the prominence given to the introduction was one of the subtexts and was an indicator of issues on which Washington would like Jamaica to act.

Political psychologist and lecturer in the Department of Government at the UWI, Dr Christopher Charles, said among People's National Party (PNP) supporters, he was Comrade Obama.

"Many people believe he came because of the PNP. People were making comparisons to Michael Manley and you would have thought that Obama was an orange Comrade," said Charles.

However, he was quick to remind the Comrades that the US has no permanent friends, but permanent national interest - a position once stated by former Ambassador Henry Kissinger.

"But, once they (US) want to realign themselves within the Caribbean they would choose Jamaica or any other country that would best serve that purpose," he suggested.

And despite Jamaica's current economic challenges, Charles said Jamaica is a cultural superpower with a lot of prominence and influence within regional groupings.

"Once Jamaica was on board with an issue, it made sense that the country most known would be used to articulate that position. It was a feather in the cap of whichever administration in power, and it happens to be the PNP," stated Charles.

Fellow political commentator, Richard 'Dickie' Crawford, said the region's young people were the biggest winners.

"It was a win for the prime minister, the young people, the media, and the security forces. It was a win also for our athletic prowess, singling out Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Of course, Bob Marley and Red Stripe as well," said Crawford.