Today is being celebrated the world over as International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate the achievements of those of the fairer sex, while highlighting the work that is still to be done on behalf of women in some of the forgotten corners of our world. Perhaps inevitably the conversation today will turn to towards finding solutions to the real and perceived inequalities facing women. That conversation will undoubtedly rest on quota systems. In fact, a member of the Jamaican Senate has already raised the issue, arguing that it would compensate for the disparity between men and women in the Parliament. I’m no expert in these matters, and I do not pretend to be – these are my opinions having thought about the issue. I have no doubt that the Senator has good intentions, but I cannot support quotas on the basis of gender, especially in political representation. Here’s why.
A friend of mine recently accused me of being a political conservative. He went on to point out that such a characterization will undoubtedly cause me to find myself on what he described as the “wrong side of history.” The characterization and accompanying condemnation arose as a result of my defence of Trinidad and Tobago in the ongoing drama surrounding the decision of immigration officials in that country to refuse entry to thirteen (13) Jamaican nationals. Apparently defending the right of a sovereign territory, particularly Trinidad and Tobago, in the exercise of its legitimate right to decide who can and cannot enter its borders is an unforgiveable sin, a politically conservative sin and possibly even an unpatriotic sin. Jamaicans in our righteous anger and pride have condemned Trinidad and Tobago in this matter and many have gone as far as calling for the secession of Jamaica from the Caribbean Community, CARICOM. I take strong exception to this, and wish to share my unpopular thoughts on the issue.
The hour draws nigh. In just about twelve hours, approximately five thousand two hundred delegates of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will converge on the national arena to cast their votes for leader of that party. Theirs is no enviable task. In one corner sits the incumbent; the cool, calm, collected and self-styled transformational leader. He is a former Prime Minister, the former Minister of Education, the former Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, and current Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition; his name is Andrew Holness. In the other corner sits the challenger. He is the self-styled “Man-A-Yard”, allegedly the best hope to return the Labour Party to government. He is the former Minister of Finance and the Public Service and current Opposition Spokesman on Finance. His name is Audley Shaw. As tomorrow’s vote draws closer, the pundits are busy making predictions as to who will emerge leader when the dust clears on Sunday afternoon. In my last few posts on this leadership contest, I urged delegates to choose Andrew Holness. I listed, as best as I knew how, the reasons Mr. Holness should be retained as leader of the party. I am now prepared to go a step further; I predict that Andrew Holness will be retained as leader of the JLP tomorrow. Here’s why.
After months of waiting, the country has the verdict of the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) on the Spaulding market scandal. The newly minted Dirk Harrison has concluded that Junior Minister Richard Azan acted in what is tantamount to a “politically corrupt” manner, in relation to the construction of shops on parish council lands. The Contractor General has since recommended the Minister to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to determine if his actions warrants criminal prosecution for conspiracy to commit fraud. The tabling of the report in the House of Representatives has thrown the government in a tailspin, with many sectors of the society calling for the resignation or dismissal of the minister. However, the Information Minister, clothed in her usual arrogance, has advised the country that no action will be taken against the minister until he has had a chance to consult with his attorney and his colleagues. Why would a man accused, by a Commission of Parliament, of political corruption be granted any time to consult anyone? To what end?
You will recall that some time ago I advised the Prime Minister that the time had come for her to step aside and allow for new and credible leadership of the country. Her inaction is again the subject of great concern and distress to me, only this time the inaction threatens the very legitimacy of the Government of Jamaica.
From as far back as I can remember, there has been a discussion regarding age and political representation. Many people opined that Jamaica’s political leaders were too old, and it was time for fresh blood to be pumped into the political system. This line of thinking was strengthened when the great liberal democracies of the United States and Great Britain elected forty year olds, in the persons of Barack Obama and David Cameron, to lead their countries. In an ode to youth, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding effectively prejudiced the race to replace him by calling for a new generation of leadership; realizing they had lost both the battle and the war, the old men of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) dropped their weapons, and lined up behind the youngest of the lot. Thus Andrew Holness was given a clear path to the leadership of the JLP and to Jamaica House. We are now two years on, and his position is under threat of a challenge; those of us who can see pass the here and now are realizing that the challenger, Mr. Audley Shaw, aged 61, represents a very risky gamble for the JLP. Mr. Shaw’s pending challenge brings the issue of youth and leadership to the fore, and if not treated carefully, it will have disastrous consequences.
If recent media reports are to be taken seriously, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party is headed towards an explosive leadership challenge in November, when the party is expected to convene for its annual general conference. It is all but confirmed that the Opposition Spokesman on Finance, and the self-styled “Man-A-Yard”, Audley Shaw will challenge the relatively new party leader, Andrew Holness for his job. Considering the divisive and turbulent internal political history of the Labour Party, many people are expecting a bitter and damaging process to unfold. While I am of the view that a challenge is necessary, if only to ‘legitimize’ Holness who was anointed, rather than elected, leader; I am uncomfortable with the utterances which imply that Holness is a poor leader, and therefore must be deposed by a challenge.
If ever a straw broke a camel’s back, that straw fell this afternoon. The Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica released what may go down in Commonwealth history as the most unfortunate statement on behalf of a Head of Government; the office of Mrs. Simpson Miller purported to be “concerned” for the safety of the Prime Minister. Fair enough. The worrying aspect of this development is that there is no security threat, in the standard sense, to the Prime Minister. Instead, the OPM released this dubious statement after members of the media sought a response from an ever evasive Simpson Miller. In her now characteristic attempt to dodge the media, and their relentless pursuit of information, the Prime Minister was apparently struck by a microphone. It is regrettable that the PM was struck, but the real issue is why was she running? The real issue is why hasn’t she consented to sit for an interview having taken office 15 months ago? When one considers the PM’s abject refusal to face the press, it leads to one devastating conclusion. If a leader cannot face the country unscripted, or by some accounts not even scripted, it brings the competence of the leader into serious question. The Prime Minister has now resorted to the lowest possible denominator, hiding. It is shameful and unacceptable. Since taking office, the PM has repeatedly told the nation that “time come”, time come for removing the Queen as Head of State, time come to take appeals to the Caribbean Court of Justice, time come to put country above party etc. I think the Prime Minister must now reflect on her own inability to lead the government, indeed the country; time come to step aside. Time come Portia, time come.
JA$99.57 to US$1.00. This is the talk of the town in Jamaica, the death of the Jamaican dollar. As the dollar veered dangerously close to the cliff, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson Miller, has generally remained silent. Taking her 19 member Cabinet with her, the PM has frequently retreated, to find solutions – presenting little results. The country waited for 14 months for an IMF agreement, public sector workers saw their salaries frozen, parliament has failed to act on important pieces of legislation, the national debt continues to hit breathtaking highs, while the standard of living continues to hit devastating lows, crime continues to pose a significant threat, with even the Security Minister allegedly being robbed – just to name a few of our challenges. As Jamaicans grow restless and the calls echo louder for the PM to either resign, take a salary cut, cut the size of the Cabinet or simply practice what she preaches, one young Jamaican, Nick Cobran, has come to the defence of the woman many call “Mama”. He cries foul, dismissing the criticism as unfair and “severely partisan”. He has agreed to share his thoughts with Veritas. Here he is, in defence of Portia.
It was election season on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies and the battle lines were sharply drawn. As usual, the spotlight focused on the post of President, contested by the social media front runner, Jamie James, and his opponent Terron Dewar, and the post of Cultural & Entertainment Affairs Chairperson (CEAC), contested by six candidates. The focus of that race would fall on the incumbent Miguel ‘Grammazone’ Reid and his closest challenger, Gabrielle Curling. This was a peculiar campaign, marked by heavy rhetoric, inferences of sexism and heavy social media organization. It soon became clear that the message was vote Jamie in and vote Grammazone out. The results would stun the student population.
The Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson Miller, recently came under fire for implying that the Leader of the Opposition is an enemy of the state. Many felt the PM displayed poor judgement and reckless abandon by likening a creature of the Constitution of Jamaica to a terrorist. In her characteristic arrogance, the PM refused to recant – maintaining that she simply posed a question and the Opposition Leader need only answer. As I reflected on the incident, I couldn’t help but set the comment against the backdrop of the current state of Jamaica – an exchange rate of $JMD95 to $USD1, 14.1% unemployment, a broke Students’ Loan Bureau, the 9th year of public sector wage freezes while the PM maintains a 20 member Cabinet – the second largest in the history of Jamaica (Michael Manley named 23 Ministers in 1976) , a near $3 million salary increase for herself, numerous consultants and advisors to the tune of $100 million, brand spanking new SUVs for her ministers, IMF negotiations in shambles and I could go on and on – I can’t help but ask, who is the true enemy of the state?
After two crushing defeats at the polls, the 69 year old Jamaica Labour Party has found itself at a crossroads. The party’s newly minted leader, Andrew Holness, has found himself caught between the agenda of the past and a desire to move boldly into the future. The party finds itself divided and fractured, with various segments peddling their personal ambitions – there is even talk of a coup to over throw the top echelons of the party. As all this unfolds, one can’t help but wonder if the party of Sir Alexander Bustamante has once again lost its way and whether it is doomed to repeat the sins of its troubled past. The most heinous of all these sins was the constant attempts to oust Edward Seaga.
At 67 years old, the current Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson Miller, is undoubtedly on the final leg of what has been an extraordinary political career. This quaint girl from Wood Hall, St. Catherine has defied all odds and now holds the highest political office in the land, complete with the styles and privileges. However, the career spanning some 30 years is fast drawing to a close, and political watchers and those in the People’s National Party are most certainly keenly interested in who will replace Mama P. Some conservative estimates venture that the Prime Minister will leave office as soon as 2014, perhaps sooner. The question then is, who will succeed Mrs. Simpson Miller as leader of the PNP? It’s not the ‘P’ you might think, at least I don’t think so anymore.
I’m always amused at the indignation Jamaicans demonstrate whenever the truth is spoken about our nation’s realities from beyond our shores. You will remember my defence of Rihanna’s “Man Down” video, and its depiction of Jamaican culture and society. This time I’m compelled to agree with Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, in his recent pronouncements on Jamaica, at least in part and in principle. While there were sweeping generalisations in the 88 year old’s comments, we should not be quick to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is a certain truth behind his statements, inconvenient though it may be.
The Simpson Miller led administration has made known its intention to accept the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), an occasion intended to mark Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of political independence from the United Kingdom. However, the plan seems set to stall as the parliamentary opposition has declared that it will not support the move without a referendum. That is, the matter must be put to the people for a vote; the Jamaica Labour Party is dead wrong. I am deeply disappointed that a matter so important is being stalled by our petty and partisan politics. It demonstrates the extent of our political immaturity and the Opposition Leader should be ashamed of himself. For his part, Foreign Affairs Minister, AJ Nicholson QC, has advised that the government would not seek a decision on the matter by way of referendum. He argues that this is unnecessary as no where in our constitutional arrangements or the Privy Council’s judgement on the matter is there a call for a referendum. I wholeheartedly support the PNP on this matter and urge all well thinking Jamaicans to do the same.
The darling of the Jamaican Government, Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna has found herself in the line of fire concerning the growing controversy around the celebration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence. Pressure has been mounting on Prime Minister Simpson Miller to dismiss the St. Ann MP from the Cabinet over what is seen as incompetence and tardiness in the staging of the massive event. The controversy has now deepened as information emerged that the present government had changed the theme of the celebrations, as well as shelved the ‘official’ song chosen by the former administration. This has resulted in widespread confusion as to which song is now the ‘official’ one. Minister Hanna has denied that there was any tribalism associated with the changes made, but then the question stands, why change it?
Dr. The Hon. Peter Phillips, Minister of Finance, made his much anticipated opening presentation in the 2012/2013 Budget Debate last week. Dr. Phillips outlined to an expectant nation how the Simpson Miller led administration intends to finance the $612 billion Estimates of Expenditure he had tabled on May 10.
President Barack Obama made history last Wednesday, becoming the first sitting U.S. President to publicly support gay marriage. The President had come under increasing pressure to support the liberal cause following Vice President Joe Biden throwing his support behind the issue which sharply divides the American society, with recent polls indicating that little over 50% of Americans support marriage equality. Said Obama in an interview with ABC News, “I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue. I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. At a certain point, I just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think that same sex couples should be allowed to get married.”
It has been 100 days since Portia Simpson Miller took the reins of Government here in Jamaica; and as is customary across the world after 100 days, the new Prime Minister and her government are being graded on their performance thus far. I wish to lend my voice to the assessment of what I consider to be the most important areas the new government should be focused on and record my comments on the Prime Minister’s report card.
As Jamaica draws closer to the 50th anniversary of it’s independence, there are several elements of our government that require immediate attention and reform. If we mean to establish ourselves as a truly sovereign nation, we must rid ourselves of the British method of doing things; especially where that method has not been effective in our political reality. I’ve noted that increasingly the Upper House of our parliament, the Senate, has failed to perform as it should, has been abused by the Prime Minister and has displayed shameless partisanship. It is against this backdrop that I am calling on the new administration to move swiftly to begin a comprehensive reform of the Senate.
I can still remember the ads from the 2007 campaign, “Jamaica needs a change now!”. They were catchy, pointed and relevant; Jamaica was flirting with the Labour Party and it’s promise of change. Many boldly declared that “me and mi neighbour, voting for Labour.” Bruce Golding had been an incredible Opposition Leader, he brought us Trafigura, a motion of no confidence, slammed corruption, poverty, the state of the economy and shredded the record of the PNP administration of the preceding 18 years. All seemed set for a better Jamaica, and then it went horribly wrong.
“You would not have 18. I will not give the country a breakfront.” – Portia Simpson Miller (May 2011)
This was the response given by then Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller, when asked whether she would appoint 18 members to a Cabinet, should she form the next government. Only a few months later, the Prime Minister has named a 19 member Cabinet (20 including her) with an accompanying price tag of $111, 349, 381; that does not include the salary of the Attorney General. This is according to figures released by The Sunday Gleaner.
The new Prime Minister, The Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, has appointed the largest executive branch in recent history; naming a stunning 19 Ministers and 8 Ministers of State. This is surprising considering Mrs. Simpson Miller, then Opposition Leader, had blasted Bruce Golding for naming an 18 member Cabinet. Even more curious is the reasoning behind the large executive.
The polls said it would be close, the pundits opined that it was anybody’s race to win; but when the dust settled on Thursday night, Jamaicans made one thing explicitly clear, this is PNP country. In what was a stunning electoral upset, the Opposition People’s National swept the ruling Jamaica Labour Party from power in spectacular style, winning 42 of the 63 seats in the House of Representatives.
Portia Simpson Miller’s assurance that she would not bar homosexuals from her Cabinet, should she form a government, has ignited a firestorm of controversy over the issue of homosexuality. From a widespread condemnation of her comments by the church, to alleged threats to the life of a JLP candidate; the issue of homosexuality has been put squarely before the electorate ahead of Thursday’s general election. As I read the comments posted to the Jamaica Observer’s website it occurred to me that Mrs. Simpson Miller has made homosexuality and gay rights a political issue, reminiscent of American Presidential politics. I now believe my commendations for Simpson Miller’s brave answer was premature; I had not anticipated the massive fall out that this has resulted in. The issue now is, has the Opposition Leader secured the “gay vote”? Will Christians punish the PNP at the polls? Is the PNP politicising homosexuality for political mileage?