End of an Era | Massive boots to fill - Residents want strong leader to replace Portia
As the People's National Party (PNP) prepares to select a candidate to contest a by-election to replace Portia Simpson Miller as the member of parliament for St Andrew South West, Comrades in the constituency are sending a loud message to the party - "We need a strong leader to try to fill her boots."
Already, sitting councillors Audrey Smith-Facey and Karl Blake have thrown their hats into the ring to replace Simpson Miller whose resignation took effect last Saturday, and whispers out of the PNP are that two other contenders could be named even though they missed the deadline to indicate their interest.
Several residents of the constituency used a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week to warn whoever gets the nod that they will have a tough act to follow in one of the PNP's strongest seats.
"The person who replaces her needs to hold education in the esteem that she did," said Kiwayne Welsh who is studying dentistry at the University of Technology.
"They have to place an emphasis on education, because this is the only way you will see development," added Welsh who also wants the next MP to help the constituency realise its full potential.
He said: "I think that south-west is prime estate; meaning it is located between two urban centres. So, being between two urban centres it would mean these areas should be more expensive to buy lands. So, whoever is to come should see that and help to build south-west."
Fellow Comrade, Dr Tamara Foster, warned the next PNP representative that it will not be an easy task to manage the constituency, as the area is a rough one and requires strong leadership.
"Anybody replacing her has to come with the same type of strength. (Kingston) 13 and (Kingston) 11 are not places that can be contained," said Foster.
She added that there is no reason to pretend that the constituency does not have its fair share of violence or is the best constituency ever, "so whoever that is; that person needs to be tangible, that person needs to be present".
Guidance counsellor Joel Rickman called for someone who is "not afraid to stand for what they believe in and what is in the best interest of the country and the constituency."
These sentiments were echoed by Melissa Bryan who expects the next PNP representative to be strict.
"It is better for (the next MP) to get the community to follow them than for them to be following the community," said Bryan.
"If they are following the community, then the community is going to run down and I want the community to rise. I want the person coming in not to give them the fish, but teach them how to fish," added Bryan.
Simpson Miller was lauded by the residents for the interest she took in the lives of the young people within the community. Taneisha Thorpe and Trichana Hines said that they wanted the next parliamentary representative to continue that trend.
"For me, I like the fact that she has been interested in young persons' daily lives and development. I want to see them develop more young persons and develop the community," said Thorpe.
"There is greatness in the constituency, it is just that opportunities are very limited for some. Anyone that replaces her must be a person that wants persons to grow and undertake community projects and just see to the overall development of the place," added Thorpe.
Simpson Miller had created an upset in 1976 by winning the seat that was once dominated by the Jamaica Labour Party. She has held it since with the exception of the six years after the PNP did not contest the 1983 general election.