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.
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.
His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales, commonly known as Prince Harry, is scheduled to visit Jamaica from March 5 – 8. The Prince will be here representing Her Majesty Elizabeth II as part of the international commemoration of the 60th year of her coronation. This visit comes in Jamaica’s jubilee year of independence and creates quite a contrast. On one hand we celebrate 50 years as an independent nation, and on the other hand we celebrate 60 years of our association with a foreign monarch. I believe it brings the issue of becoming a republic back to the fore.
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?
It was perhaps the most anticipated of Jamaica’s three political debates; staged at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies, this instalment featured the Prime Minister, The Hon. Andrew Holness facing the Most Hon. Leader of the Opposition Portia Simpson Miller. However, this was not the knock out that many predicted. While we can agree that the Prime Minister prevailed slightly, the real story here is the performance of Mrs. Simpson Miller.
It’s now official; 150 candidates have been duly nominated to contest Jamaica’s 16th General Election under Universal Adult Suffrage. While the Electoral Office of Jamaica has reported a smooth nomination process, I have taken particular interest in what I term the curious case of two Crawfords. The PNP’s Damion O. Crawford and a surprise independent candidate, also named Damion O. Crawford, will both go up against former NSWA head, Joan Gordon Webley, in the constituency of St. Andrew – East Rural. No matter what your political affiliation, you have to agree with me; this anomaly carries a solid stench of trickery and deception.
The first of Jamaica’s three political debates is over. The dust has now settled. Who is still standing? This writer says #TeamPNP. Tonight’s round saw the PNP’s Lisa Hanna, Dr. Dayton Campbell and Raymond Pryce up against the JLP’s Sen. Warren Newby, Sen. Marlene Malahoo-Forte and Dr. Sapphire Longmore. The country was to have been treated to a battle of wit highlighting issues of a socio-economic nature from the youth perspective; unfortunately the “young” debaters betrayed that they are well schooled in the old style of politics; combative and nakedly partisan.
In the last three months, Jamaica’s political landscape has undergone a dramatic overhaul; engineered and led largely by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). From the resignation of Prime Minister Bruce Golding to the ascension of a 39 year old to the top job; the message is clear, Jamaica’s politics is changing.
However, one cannot help but wonder if all this is simply flash and no substance. What I mean is, does all of this amount to a brilliantly crafted strategy by the JLP to retain state power amid unprecedented economic challenges? Former Prime Minister Golding said as much at the 68th conference of the JLP. He likened the move to a game of football, he had called the play. What this all amounts to is perception. How is it perceived? The polls give the answer, the JLP is ahead.
It is not often in Jamaica’s political dynamic that one sees personal ambition put aside in the interest of party and country. It was therefore a surprise this morning when the parliamentary caucus of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party unanimously declared support for Education Minister, Andrew Holness, to become the 9th Prime Minister of independent Jamaica.
It has been 72 hours since Prime Minister Bruce Golding shocked his party with news that he will be stepping aside as party leader, and subsequently Prime Minister, come November. After a failed attempt to convince Mr. Golding to change his mind, the JLP is now gearing it’s machinery towards a leadership race. The JLP chairman, Mike Henry, has indicated that the nomination process to fill the impending vacancy will remain open until late October. The question now is, who will be Jamaica’s 9th Prime Minister when the dust settles?
Prime Minister of Jamaica and Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, The Hon. Bruce Golding, has made known his intention to step down at the party’s November conference. In a statement to the party, Golding revealed that he will not seek re-election as JLP leader and will step down as PM once a new leader is chosen. Mr. Golding revealed that the challenges of the last four years have taken a toll on him and he considers it prudent to now step aside and pave the way for new leadership. While the news has stunned several sections of the society; one thing is clear, this is a political strategy at it’s best.
The Golding Administration last Tuesday tabled in the House of Representatives the report of the Emile George led Commission of Enquiry. Having enquired for some 40 days into the extradition saga which nearly brought down the ruling Labour party, the commissioners presented a report which has been condemned and rejected by the general citizenry. Indeed, the only groups which have accepted the report are the Government and the JLP.
I wish to highlight a few points from the report which I find puzzling.
The first and perhaps the most glaring travesty which jumps from the report presented, is that section which speaks to Prime Minister Golding’s involvement in the matter. The commissioners concede that Golding’s involvement was “inappropriate” and “imprudent”, but there is no comma; there is a full stop. In other words, that is the end of the matter. This cannot be acceptable.
The Opposition Leader today unveiled an 18 member council of spokespersons with portfolio responsibilities, she claimed, necessary to confront the challenges faced by the country.
While the list of spokespersons is not as young and fresh as we would have hoped, the party leader has made some necessary and welcomed re assignments. I have long called for the Finance portfolio to be taken from Dr. Davies in light of his dismal performance in that capacity for some 13 years. Mrs. Simpson Miller has assigned the Finance portfolio to Dr. Peter Phillips. This has no doubt caused some murmurings. Why not Mark Golding? Or Peter Bunting?
The latest polls commissioned by RJR/TVJ and conducted by veteran pollster, Professor Ian Boxil, show Jamaica’s parliamentary opposition, the PNP, several percentage points ahead of the governing Labour party; and apparently poised to form the next government. As we reflect on the poll numbers we must question how well the PNP has performed in it’s present capacity as opposition and if they have proven themselves incompetent in opposing weak policies, can we trust them to propose strong ones should they form our government again?
From my perspective, the PNP has been an absolute failure at being a credible or even meaningful opposition. The first challenge the PNP has in adequately carrying out it’s present function is the slate of spokespersons. Omar Davies? Robert Pickersgill? Roger Clarke? Can we honestly say this slate of opposition spokespersons have been adequate? No. No, we cannot. With the exception of Lisa Hanna, Fenton Ferguson and Peter Bunting; who else do we know? This is excepting the old faces mentioned above. The PNP should be thankful for Dr. Peter Phillips. Though twice rejected by the delegates, he has been the most effective opposition parliamentarian to date. Is the Opposition Leader even aware of the fact that most of the gentlemen she has appointed to shadow the government are associated with some of the greatest failures of the Patterson administration and then eventually hers?