By Garth A. Rattray
My attempts at candidness, fairness and balance seem to repeatedly confuse those seeking to brand me as a politically biased individual. Therefore, in order to preserve the message that I want to get across, I need to reiterate that my allegiance is to Jamaica.
I have criticised Mrs Portia Simpson Miller for aspects of her presentations and I have also praised her on her stridency and bravery regarding certain aspects of her politics and principles.
I feel that I would be remiss if I did not express my confusion, amusement and sometimes even exasperation at those calling for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to verbally address many matters all the time.
Yes, I too think that the shooting death of eight-month pregnant Kay-Ann Lamont at the hands of a 'peace officer' should have been addressed far earlier than it was. Even without prejudging the case, the act itself cried out for condemnation from the head of this administration.
That aside, there has been a rising din of voices (especially from certain quarters) calling for the prime minister to speak on other situations when she has very clearly stated that she was not briefed on the topic as yet. We know that she can represent herself and her party well when properly briefed; she surprised most when she shone in the pre-election debates last year.
Amid political ridicule and derision, she rightfully stated that she has chosen to leave commenting to the appropriate government ministers. I can envision eyebrows rising, pupils dilating and sneers appearing on the faces of those who would exclaim, "What??!!" Before they put pen to paper and fingertips to keyboards to make their disagreement known, I want them to consider this: she is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. In other words, she has been placed in a catch-22 situation; she cannot win.
Sometimes whenever the prime minister speaks on a topic, there is due cause to criticise what she says. But, on many other occasions critics line up and take numbers to scan what-ever she says, looking for opportunities to punch holes in her speeches and to heap scorn on her utterances for the sole purpose of scoring political points.
Some even go as far as to snidely advise that she should not speak too much. However, when she declines to comment (when caught in impromptu/ambush interviews and grilled on emerging situations) and instead reminds the naysayers that she has taken the decision to allow the relevant appointed officials to cover their portfolios, there is an organised and rehearsed chorus criticising her for not speaking.
In the not too distant past, I have opined that this prime minister should do exactly what she is doing now - use her best (political) talent for the sake of everyone. She is talented at being a people person and being the political rallying point. To fully realise her political goals she should leave the nitty-gritty, day-to-day grind to the people responsible for those things.
Different leaders have different strengths and weaknesses. Mr. Edward Seaga comes to mind readily. His leadership was the diametric opposite of Mrs Simpson Miller. He was a 'hands-on-everything' leader - too hands-on for his subordinates and the party. He effectively took control of almost every aspect of his administration. There was a noticeable hierarchical gap, which translated into a leadership gap, which conveyed the feeling of a lack of confidence in his ministers of government (a one-man band), which inevitably translated into reticent disquiet and eventual overt dissent.
We can't have both Portias. It's either "Doan draw mi tongue" Portia or "I won't talk myself out of power" Portia. Give me the latter any day.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.