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EDITORIAL - Mr Golding and transition management

Published:Thursday | September 29, 2011 | 12:00 AM

We are sensitive to the fact that Prime Minister Bruce Golding may still be mourning the loss of his mother, whose funeral was held yesterday. Anyone who has faced the death of a loved one will have some appreciation of the pain being felt by the prime minister.

But Mr Golding should know that when one throws one's hat into the ring of the State and assumes its leadership, one's responsibilities thereto trump personal matters and/or familial crises. Indeed, the value of the nation is greater than the sum of our individual interests.

In that regard, even as we acknowledge the personal trauma of the death of his mother, it wouldn't have absolved him of responsibility to offer the citizens of Jamaica an explanation for his unexpected and dramatic announcement of his decision to step down as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and prime minister of the country.

Nor can Mr Golding deem as harassment the demands, inside the Parliament, by members of the legislature for a forthright explanation of his action, notwithstanding the fact that his departure is not immediate.

First, Mr Golding employed judgement in when he chose to advise a closed meeting of his party's Central Executive committee of his plan not to seek re-election and, further, to cause that information to be officially released to the public via the press.

When he spoke on Sunday, he was already, for several days, mourning his mother. Mr Golding ought to have known that his announcement would have evoked demands for more and better particulars by the public about the reasons for his action. Even if from mere curiosity.

But the imminent resignation of a prime minister is not a matter of mere passing interest, especially in the circumstances of Jamaica, with its dodgy economy and delicate negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Markets respond to information. They may behave irrationally when none is forthcoming, or if what is on offer lacks clarity.

In that regard, Mr Golding, in Parliament on Tuesday, could have made a short statement about his decision and reassure the markets that the transition process would preserve the stability of his administration and the coherence of its policies. He left things hanging.

Fair game for all

It is important, we feel, that Mr Golding speak quickly. More important, he must act with a deftness, not so far displayed, in managing the transition, without circumscribing debate among contenders for the post.

The attacks on Mr Andrew Holness, one of the perceived front-runners for the party leader and prime minister jobs, for attending a meeting at the home of Mr Golding's estranged colleague, Harold Brady, underline the point. Mr Holness was invited by interests who sought to persuade him to forgo his own candidature in favour of the finance minister, Mr Audley Shaw. He declined.

First, Mr Holness did nothing wrong, on the face of it, in either attending the meeting, or in declining the suggestion. Mr Golding created a vacancy, which all JLP members can legitimately aspire to fill. Moreover, it was not Mr Holness' meeting, but called by Mr Shaw's supporters, in furtherance of his candidature. They, too, have nothing about which to be ashamed.

With regard to the timing of the confab, Mr Golding chose the moment when he would disclose his intention. All potential contenders, thereafter, have a right to pursue their interests.

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