False start - Holness teases supporters, but holds back on election date
by Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
OUT CAME the big golden bell and Andrew Holness shook it vigorously.
The thousands of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters who had crammed into the National Arena and had overflowed on the outside had one message for their leader.
"Call it Andrew, call it!" they shouted, even as their voices struggled to compete with the blaring vuvuzelas and ringing bells.
But the prime minister and party leader did not oblige.
"It is just a short time. I am not going to call it today," Holness said.
"But from what the public has seen here today, the public knows that we are ready."
He added: "You are now on your marks, the next time you see me at a mass meeting it will be get set ... . And yuh notice I start to get fit like Usain Bolt because it is going to be a sprint to the finish line."
The 39-year-old Holness, who was earlier elected unopposed to replace Bruce Golding as leader of the JLP, used the tail end of an otherwise dull presentation teasing Labourites that he would name the election date.
"I am not keeping too much suspense on the election ... . I don't want anybody to say that we caught them by surprise."
And with a chorus of "We ready! We ready!" from a sea of green in the jam-packed arena, he grabbed a golden bell and shook vigorously.
"The uncertainties can't follow us into the new year. We have to resolve those uncertainties this year," Holness told them.
"This election is about the people of Jamaica deciding that the pathway that we have already been, of economic stability setting the stage for growth, that we will continue on that pathway of growth and prosperity," the JLP leader said.
Holness, whose inaugural address as prime minister lasted one hour, said he would not be speaking for long, noting he had been criticised for the length of his inagural speech.
"I don't want to be criticised for giving long speeches again," Holness said.
Nonetheless, he spent more than an hour delivering his presentation, the first 45 of which was met with little applause.
He focused his presentation on four statements made by members of the People's National Party when that party was in government, saying he intends to have those comments relegated to the bins of history.
The statements criticised by Holness were Dr Omar Davies' "run with it", Dr Peter Philllips' comment that "those who plays by the rules are those who get shafted", and former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson's "the law is not a shackle" as well as his claim that politics is "the fight for scarce benefits and political spoils carried on by hostile tribes which seem to be perpetually at war".
"Politics in Jamaica for far too long has been about distribution; who gets what, how, where and when," Holness declared. "We have not had a serious discussion in this country about increasing the size of the national pudding."
The prime minister said Jamaicans must be made to recognise that hard work is the road to success.
"We must reinforce the long-held value, 'By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread'," Holness said.
Pointing to the need to stimulate the economy, the prime minister said Jamaicans must recognise that those who play by the rules are the ones that get ahead.
"To get jobs, we have to get rid of the hoodlums who are extorting away the businesses from those communities," he argued.
Holness said the country would have to seriously reform the tax system to ensure that everyone paid their fair share.