Mon | Feb 19, 2018

Peter's last letter: The handicaps of leadership

Published:Wednesday | January 18, 2017 | 5:50 PM
Peter Abrahams (right) with former prime minister, Michael Manley.

Long-time journalist Peter Abrahams was found dead today at his Rock Hall home in St Andrew.

The police have launched an investigation into his passing but have not yet determined the cause death.

IN PHOTO: Peter Abrahams 

Earlier today, The Gleaner published a letter written by Abrahams tackling the issue of leadership in Jamaica.


See the letter below:


When Portia Simpson Miller, then prime minister of Jamaica, was asked by that sharp journalist from TVJ, the 'what if' question, "What if you lost the election?", she could have answered in many ways. "I don't expect to, but if the unlikely happens, I will do this, that or the other". Instead, she scoffed at the question. "Do I look like a loser?"

The clear idea was the stupidity of the question. The reality made the answer, not the question, stupid. Mrs Simpson Miller lost the election and a lot of credibility. So why that particularly stupid answer?

IN PHOTO: Portia Simpson Miller

Because leaders must never admit the possibility of defeat? Must never own up to being wrong? Is this the basis for the cult of the 'strong and wrong' leadership we seem to foster? I do not think it is in Jamaica's best interest for us to produce and glorify this brand of leadership.

The art of good leadership demands humility, self-criticism, and a very real and practical love of land and people.


Which leads to the second unfortunate feature of the last general election from my perspective. I think the Jamaica Labour Party was in a winning streak from the moment the People's National Party decided not to debate. And Mr Andrew Michael Holness, in traditional street political combat style, took off with a vengeance. I am not sure that he could contain himself at that point. The words flowed with the same type of passionate eloquence that I watched when Michael Manley was in full flight.

IN PHOTO: Andrew Holness

When Holness spoke of Sister P as the old generation, comparing ages in a most ungentlemanly fashion - the past - I remembered Manley's "five flights" daily. Again, there was the impulse to cancel the past and to begin all over from scratch.

We do not learn from the past. We wipe it out. So we are forever beginning anew.

What a self-made handicap!