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'No margin for error' - PM Holness appeals for bipartisan cooperation for good of country

Published:Friday | March 4, 2016 | 12:15 AMGary Spaulding
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen (left) looks on as Prime Minister Andrew Holness holds aloft his instrument of appointment during yesterday's swearing-in ceremony at King's House in St Andrew.
Outgoing Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's standard is lowered as incoming Prime Minister Andrew Holness' standard is broken during yesterday's ceremony.

Acknowledging that the razor-thin majority of his administration will mean no easy cruise, Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday extended the hand of partnership to the Opposition as he was sworn into office.

"This historic election delivered the smallest majority but also the clearest mandate," declared Holness after he took the Oath of Office at King's House.

"With this mandate, there is no majority for arrogance, no space for selfishness, no place for pettiness, no room for complacency, and no margin for error," added the youngest person to be twice sworn in as prime minister.

Holness delivered his inauguration speech in a poignantly harmonious atmosphere brought about, for the most part, by religious and patriotic music, under cloudy skies.

He reiterated his campaign vow that he would be keeping along the straight and narrow path to economic growth.

With former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller sharing the platform, Holness made it clear that he was acutely aware that the new Government would be in need of a partnering hand.

To his political rivals over whom his Jamaica Labour Party prevailed with a slim 32-31 victory at the polls on February 25, Holness said: "We may have different voices and different votes on a similar vision."

He added: "Regardless of our differences, Jamaica was victorious at the general election ... . It is not perfect, but we can all be proud of the people, systems, and institutions that make up our democracy."

Asserting that Simpson Miller has given long and dedicated service to the country, Holness said: "I believe the mandate is saying, we may not be on the same side of the road, but as much as possible, we should hold hands in cooperation to overcome obstacles for the good of the country."

In the clearest indication that he would be seeking to continue the partnerships initiated by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and continued under the Simpson Miller and Bruce Golding administrations, Holness promised to do the same.

"We have evolved without formal structure a very good partnership in education and we intend to continue our informal collaborations in this area and pursue other such areas of cooperation between government and opposition members," he asserted.

Added to a social partnership, Holness echoed a proposal that he made during his first inauguration, in 2011, that it would be a useful symbol of national unity for the prime minister and the leader of the opposition to appear together in zones of political exclusion.

"I, again, extend the invitation," he said.

The prime minister also promised to continue to ensure that economic monitoring is maintained under his watch.

"I am under no illusion as to the meaning of this mandate. We have not won a prize. Instead, the people are giving us a test," he said.

Continued Holness: "There is no absolute agency of power. This means that the winner cannot take all or believe we can do it alone."

Holness stressed that the JLP was not naive about the challenges it faces regarding the nation's debt and the need to maintain fiscal discipline.

"This is why we will continue with the principle of joint oversight of our economic programme and performance," he said.

That promise should prove encouraging to private-sector interests, which are pushing for the continuation of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee, currently headed by businessman Richard Byles.

Holness stressed that the JLP recognises the importance and value of Jamaica's relationship with bilateral and multilateral friends.

"These relationships have been critical in securing stability," he stressed.

"We believe in preserving stability, but we must now build on this in a productive partnership with them to achieve inclusive growth and job creation."

According to Holness, there are many more areas of partnership that must be formally pursued for national development.

"As our Government is installed over the coming days, these will become evident," he said.