Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
PRIME MINISTER-designate Portia Simpson Miller has pledged to honour the confidence of the Jamaican people by working "unswervingly to achieve the desired growth, development, and to lift the standard of living in Jamaica".
Simpson Miller will today take the oath of office as prime minister of Jamaica for the second time during a ceremony at King's House.
"I accept the mandate of the Jamaican people with humility," she told The Gleaner yesterday.
"It is about the people, not about me or the PNP (People's National Party)," she added.
Simpson Miller last Thursday led the PNP to a crushing 42-21 victory over Andrew Holness' Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), paving the way for her return to Jamaica House.
She had served as prime minister for 530 days between March 30, 2006, and September 11, 2007. Her stay in office was terminated after she failed to lead the PNP to victory against Bruce Golding's JLP in the September 3, 2007, general election.
"This time it is different from when I was first sworn in. The first time was from the delegates of the People's National Party. This time, I am going with the mandate of the majority of the Jamaican people who voted in the elections," Simpson Miller said.
Phillip Paulwell, head of the team that is planning today's swearing-in ceremony for Simpson Miller, said the event would cost $3.3 million. He also said the ceremony would be characterised by sobriety and national unity.
"She (Simpson Miller) realises, as we all do, that the country has been and will continue for a while to go through some austere periods, and, therefore, we have to ensure that the signals are sent from day one," Paulwell said during a press conference at the PNP's Old Hope Road, St Andrew, headquarters.
According to Paulwell, Simpson Miller has mandated his team to keep the cost of the function to a minimum.
"Before the elections, there was an inter-ministerial team that was planning a swearing-in ceremony and they had established a budget of $4.2 million. The prime minister-designate wanted to cut that to $2.9 million. We only settled at $3.3 million because procurement was done before and contracts committed to. But not a cent more, she has insisted," Paulwell said.
"You are going to find that there will not be an extensive reception. In fact, the reception that the GG (governor general) will host will only be for the visiting heads. It will not be for more than 40 persons," he added.
Paulwell said that since Thursday's win, representatives of several governments have expressed an interest in attending the function.
"We do anticipate a significant international presence," he said.
He said Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Chairman Desi Bouterse would be in attendance as well as a number of prime ministers from the region.
Paulwell also said Cayman Premier McKeeva Bush would lead a six-man delegation and Cuba's Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas would lead an eight-member team. In addition, congressmen and congresswomen from the United States and members of the diaspora are expected among the 10,000 guests.
First female PM
Simpson Miller is being sworn in 2,107 days after she first took office as Jamaica's first female prime minister. Yesterday, she said she hopes that during her reign in office she will be able to lead a team that galvanises the support of all Jamaicans.
"The task ahead will be difficult, but I am not unaccustomed to hard work and putting in the long hours in order to achieve growth and development for this country," Simpson Miller told The Gleaner.
She joins Sir Alexander Bustamante and Michael Manley as the only political leaders to take the oath of office after suffering a general election loss.
Bustamante, as chief minister, lost the 1955 general election to Norman Manley's PNP, but returned to win the 1962 general election, becoming Jamaica's first prime minister in the process. The island had gained Independence that year.
As president of the PNP, Michael Manley lost the 1980 general election but returned to win the 1989 polls and was sworn in as prime minister for a second time.