Simpson Miller embraces 'new phase of life'
Portia Simpson Miller delivered her valedictory New Year's message as a political leader yesterday, taking credit for having stabilised the Jamaican economy and putting it on a path to growth, warning of potential headways facing the country, but stopping short of announcing an expected definitive timetable for her departure as president of the People's National Party (PNP).
"As the new year dawns, I embrace a new phase of my life and my service to Jamaica - one in which my passion for the upliftment of the poor and the vulnerable will not subside," she said in the message.
"My concern for the advance-ment of persons with disabilities will not be diminished and my advocacy for the well-being of our nation's children will never be dimmed."
After a decade at the helm of the PNP, which she has led both in government and opposition, Simpson Miller, under pressure to orchestrate a renewal of the party, announced last November that she would not seek to extend her mandate at the end of her current term in September.
PNP insiders, at the time, expected her to signal a departure date as early as next month, or the latest March, and to signal that intent in yesterday's message.
Although she did not do so, PNP activists and independent analysts last night suggested that this did not necessarily mean a change of plans.
"The officers of the party will [meet] on January 5 and she could very well give them the timetable at that time, setting in motion the process for the election of a new leader," said a source close to the PNP.
"But this is a process that is being delicately balanced and managed by the party leader."
Dr Peter Phillips, Simpson Miller's one-time challenger and finance minister in the 2012-2016 government, is expected to be a shoo-in, following the pullback of his top rival, Peter Bunting, the former national security minister. If no other challenger emerges, which much of the party's top brass believe will be the case, Phillips will have a coronation as president.
In yesterday's remarks, Simpson Miller said it has been a "joy" to have been in active politics for more than four decades, thanked the Jamaican people for the opportunity and God "for blessing me with the health, strength, energy, vision, ability and commitment to have served the people in various capacities for more than 42 years".