NEEDED: New prime minister, new opposition leader
Ronald Mason, Contributor
Portia Simpson Miller has been a long-standing, ardent standard-bearer for the People's National Party (PNP). In 1992, on the departure from leadership by Michael Manley, she challenged for the leadership. She lost to P.J. Patterson. The word all around was that she was not ready. She did not display the intellectual, education and gravitas to be leader at that time.
In 2006, she ascended to the leadership of the party on the departure of P.J. Patterson. There was still an undercurrent that expressed the view that she was still not ready for the mantle of leadership, but the recognition of long service, her role as the election master from her spot as vice-president, and the value of being the first female leader of the Government of Jamaica proved to be a winning formula. The intellectuals who underpinned the administration acquiesced for the sake of the admonition that only Portia could lead the party to victory in a general election.
The election came in 2007. She had not been in charge of the Government long enough to be objectively evaluated as to her tenure. She was to lead the party to defeat in 2007.
The lingering doubts as to her suitability and competency to lead never faded. She was then challenged and her popularity with the delegates of the PNP was to carry the day. It must be acknowledged that almost no one has credited her with winning because of superior leadership skills or dominance of intellect, but rather, her connectedness to those she has referred to as the masses. In her February 2006 victory, she garnered 47 per cent of the delegate votes. She was, however, challenged in July 2008 and the election of September 2008 saw her again successful.
What has been the value of her leadership since becoming prime minister in March 2006? She narrowly lost the 2007 general election and local government elections. She was to retake the leadership of the Government in December 2011. This has resulted in a total of March 2006 to September 2007 and December 2011 to date as the period of her direct stewardship.
In the electoral arena, she has been successful. In the arena of governance, there is a paucity of achievements. The economy has not grown appreciably annually, less than one per cent in gross domestic product. The debt still commands the largest share of the national budget to service. The health sector is still in a state of shambles. The majority of high school students still cannot achieve five Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subject passes, inclusive of English and mathematics, at one sitting. The road network has deteriorated to a disgraceful state. The electricity rate has remained at US42 cents per kilowatt-hour. Unemployment has fluctuated, but still has not attained a level of 12 per cent - in fact, it has been considerably more. The dollar has depreciated on average of eight per cent per annum. Poverty stalks the land.
It is to be noted that she has not had ministerial responsibility for all the above; however, when she wishes us to believe that she has delegated to ministers and they all are charting the correct course, the failure at these and other ministries must be laid squarely at her desk.
There is no motivation for the country to expect better soon. There is only the acknowledgement that they are in the third year of a five-year cycle and the 'dutty tough'. What of the palpable sufferings of the people? Where is the hope for tomorrow? Wage restraints will be lifted with an increase award in the two to five per cent per annum range. Inflation at official levels is six to eight per cent. The value of poor people's dollar diminishes daily. How can this be termed anything, except failure?
Goodbye, Madam Prime Minister.
Leader of the Opposition
The country is now saddled with a leader of the opposition who is not even singing from the same hymn book as his members. The infighting continues with a merely discernible reduction since the return of Christopher Tufton.
He, the leader, used a methodology that is the subject of a court challenge to control the Senate members. No streak of independence of thought is to be accepted there. A court challenge and the pathetic methodology to avoid the summons is the state of play with Othniel Lawrence in St Ann. Mike Henry is kept at arm's length. Fayval Williams, Aubyn Hill are not in the same building as Audley Shaw.
Andrew Holness won his challenge, but the fact that so soon after his coronation he generated a challenge speaks volumes by and of itself. He asked for state-funding of political parties but because of public outcry and dissent from his lieutenant, he backtracks.
I challenge anyone who has the answer to educate me on the ideological differences between the Jamaica Labour Party and the PNP. My limited ability can discern none. This is why the weakness of his personality and leadership skills has become the only thing on which to assess his suitability for the post of prime minister-in-waiting. What of the bitter medicine?
Goodbye, Andrew Holness.
The political parties have in their midst persons better suited for the respective leadership posts. The nation demands better NOW.
NEEDED: new prime minister; new leader of the opposition.