Wholesome Holness : Education Minister now Prime Minister Designate of Jamaica
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.
The top contenders in the race for leadership of the JLP have all decided that in the interest of unity and in order to ensure a smooth transition between Prime Ministers, they would throw their support behind the front runner, Andrew Holness. It was political intrigue and political theatre at it’s best. From Vaz to Montaque to Baugh to Tufton, and yes, even to Shaw; the argument was the same, Holness is the right man for the job. I was particularly impressed with Mr. Shaw who was extremely diplomatic and appeared selfless as he stepped aside. It was a coronation proper, a 39 year old being given the top job on a silver platter. When Holness took the podium, he was a man in charge. He spoke of the need for unity, and sobriety while assuring the various stake holders that there would be continuity. This was particularly important for him to do as business and investment interests were worried that the transition would upset the modest economic gains the country has made over the last four years. He spoke to his vision for Jamaica and the need for Jamaica to face it’s problems together as one nation. He reminded me so much of Obama in that instance. The orator with flawless rhetoric.
Beyond seeming sober and pensive, Holness seemed ready. He reached out to all stake holders, declaring himself a leader of all Jamaicans, irrespective of political affiliation. However, as I watched, and as happy as I am; I could not shake the feeling that this was September 2007 all over again, and golden Golding had just won the general elections. Do you remember the jubilation? The expectation? The hope? Change had finally come to Jamaica. Or had it? Fast forward four years later and I cannot help but wonder if this is all deja vu. Are we really just crowning much of the same with a younger face? Should we perhaps approach Holness cautiously? Should we perhaps pay more keen attention to his performance as Education Minister? What of his judgement in this recent stand off with the Jamaica Teachers’ Association? Or am I just being mischievous?
My sincere hope is that Holness realises that he has the support of Jamaica and that he translates that support into political will and moves to implement long lasting change in the unemployment numbers, constitutional reform, accountability, and the general standard in government. This is a real chance for Holness, I hope that he resists the temptation to fall into the trap of his predecessors. Mrs. Simpson Miller squandered her chance. Golding squandered his chance. Holness needs to take this bull by the horns and effect the change Jamaica so desperately needs.
I also found it curious that one of the contenders for leadership, Mike Henry, was not present at this morning’s coronation. Is this to be understood to mean that Henry is not backing down and will challenge Holness despite the parliamentary support he has earned? That would certainly throw a wrench into Holness’ fast track to Jamaica House. Again, we must wait and see. Of course, the PNP must now be huddled at party headquarters. The question now must be, what now? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the PNP needs to thread very carefully. I’d imagine the party is watching these developments closely and calculating what the next move should be; especially now that it appears Holness enjoys the overwhelming confidence of Jamaicans.
For my part, I’m predicting a snap election. I anticipate that there will be an election mid December and I’m also anticipating a sweep for the JLP, at least 40 seats. Based on my conversations with PNP stalwarts, I’ve gathered that should there be a snap election, the PNP would be unwillingy to face the polls. You’ll recall they have stayed away from most by elections over the last four years, is this because the party fears losing? Do they fear presenting an old and out dated team? Besides Mark Golding, Lisa Hanna, Peter Bunting and Natalie Henry, who does the PNP have in parliament that can be considered viable for the future? Let us not forget they put aside one of their most promising young leaders recently, Damion Crawford. And how would it be perceived if there is indeed a snap election and the PNP refuses to contest it, as they refused in the 1980’s? These are interesting times. Jamaica’s political climate is fast heating up.
I wish Mr. Holness good luck as he prepares to take up this new task. I do hope that he lives up to the hopes and expectation of Jamaicans. Will he be a game changer or just much if the same old same old? Let us wait and see, let us wait and see.
*Title inspired by Dominic Vassell.