- RUDOLPH BROWN/CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson leaves his home in Norbrook, St. Andrew en route to his Devon Road office on Thursday, his last day in office.
Members of Patterson staff (from left): Ionie Wright, Sherlet Thomas and Ann Harris
Byron Buckley, News Editor
THESE DAYS when P.J. Patterson rises in the morning, he does not have the compulsion to grab the newspaper or tune into the radio to find out where something has gone awry in government and needs fixing.
That burden has been lifted. At approximately 4:45 p.m. last Thursday, he handed in his resignation to Governor-General, Professor Kenneth Hall, ending 14 years as Prime Minister of Jamaica and five decades in public life.
Minutes later, his successor Portia Simpson Miller was sworn in.
Seven hours ahead of that event, on his last day in office, Mr. Patterson told The Sunday Gleaner that he was looking forward to his life as a private citizen.
"I'll enjoy most not being obliged either to listen to the early morning news to hear what has transpired or to look at newspapers first to hear which minister or office of government I need to call and give some instruction," he said with relief.
He is also now free from the possibility of being awakened by a telephone call from a minister or government official alerting him to some crisis which may have developed during the course of the night.
As he proceeded into a well-earned retirement, Mr. Patterson said he had a "sense of honour and privilege to have been given the opportunity of leading the country over the past few years, thereby enabling me to make a positive contribution to building a competitive economy to enhance the path to social development and upward mobility."
The outgoing head of state said, in addition, that he was satisfied with being able to pass the baton of leadership "in a manner that is seamless and which will allow the country to proceed to the next phase of its evolution."
The maintenance of stability during the transition period seemed to have added further pressure to Mr. Patterson during the closing days of his administration.
There was some amount of public disapproval or anxiety over the five-week waiting period to hand over the reigns of government to Mrs. Simpson Miller.
"I have the responsibility firstly, to the country to ensure that the projects and programmes in place can be pursued without any hitch and without any gap in the pursuit of important projects," he explained last Thursday.
He cited projects such as the launch of a national energy policy, preparation for Cricket World Cup 2007 and the rationalisation of the sugar industry.
"I also had the responsibility to the party to ensure that it was able to proceed on the unity which I had managed to forge during my tenure, he said. "We have seen since the (presidential) election cohesion within the party."
PATTERSON STAFF REFLECTIONS
Hours before his departure into retirement, members of Prime Minister Patterson's personal support staff reflected on his tenure.IONIE WRIGHT
Secretary Ionie Wright said she was impressed by how her boss related to people and their needs.
"People who are ill write to PM and he never discards the letters. He always tries to respond," she stated "Almost 99 per cent of the people who write are ordinary Jamaicans. They always say we are praying for you; we are in your corner; we are supporting you; don't be afraid of the critics."SHERLET THOMAS
"The PM is human and you are able to be yourself. You never feel like you are walking on egg shells around him," testified Sherlet Thomas, one of his secretaries. "I have learnt a lot about the human spirit and how we treat other people."ANN HARRIS
"He is such a tolerant person. I found him to be very long-suffering," remarked Anne Harris, another secretary. You can tell at times that he has so many things (on his mind). You can see the pressure mount-ing, but he is able to prioritise and get through the tasks one at a time. I really admired that quality in him." RAYMOND REECE
Raymond Reece, special adviser to Mr. Patterson for 14 years, said he was impressed by his boss' "ability to remain calm under what would be considered as intense pressure, when a normal man would break."
He related that while Mr. Patterson would never or seldom show anger in public, there were times when the former Prime Minister would let off steam on those close to him.
"At times I get it, but it is never anything that remains. That's what I am there for. It is better that he does it to those of us who are closer to him, and understand him, than to people who would not understand the pressure he is undergoing."
Touching on Mr. Patterson's legacy, Mr. Reece said the nation should thank the former Prime Minister for "bringing civility to the nation especially between the political parties." He added that Mr. Patterson, unknown to many sporting bodies, played a big role in assisting the development of sports.
Now that he has successfully passed the baton and completed the race, Mr. Patterson is now watching from the stands, free from the daily pressures of his former high-performance job.