It has been often said, of Jamaica, that one of the reasons, the country, is where it is, seemingly at a Crossroads between political indecision and financial stagnation, is due to the Sins of our political Fathers. And by our Political Fathers, we mean our Prime Ministers, over the years.
While some say this glibly, on the face of it, the statement is not without merit. And it behooves us all, before dismissing those who question the contribution of our Prime Ministers, to equip ourselves with knowledge of their tenure and contribution, before rushing in to present an underinformed opinion as a factual contribution.
Since its Independence in 1962, Jamaica has been Blessed with 7-Prime Ministers. Some of whom have been game-changers, and others who have been a curse on the nation.
Sir Alexander Bustamante: Jamaica’s First Prime Minister, was elected to the office on a xenophobic ticket, by taking a populist approach and campaigned against the proposal of an integrated Caribbean Community, as supported by his political foe and Cousin, Norman Washington Manley.
Now, History has shown that a United Caribbean Community of Nations, with little or no restriction of movement between nations and pooling of Conmunity resources, with some kind of central Government modeled after that obtained in the European Union, would have been in the Region’s best interest, speaking on global matters with one voice; negotiating Trade and Legal Treaties; Visa Access; Maritime and Border dispute, would have served us all better. But alas, Alexander Bustamante, was a man of little learning, whose grasp of such complex matters was reduced to the very basics and so, took the populist route, with no Backup plan after his successful separation from the Concept of the West Indies Federation, and Took Jamaica on a path of indecision and a vague foreign policy prescription that left us at the whims and fancy of the global powers at the time – The USA, Britain, and The USSR.
Not skilled in diplomacy or global politics, Jamaica was left on the international sidelines, of world initiatives, that resulted in the continuing rape and plundering of our meager resources, by the then world-Powers who wanted our bauxite for their machines of war and other industrial development. It did not occur to our Leaders at the time, and certainly not the Prime Minister, that they could have negotiated and or argued for value-added, industries from Bauxite mining, instead of the Pittance earned in simply selling its ore.
Having missed that early boat, to maximize our earnings and to expand our industrial pool, the Country pretty much limped along on the hype of being an Independent Country, with a Festival, a Miss World, and very little else of substance, into the next General elections, which saw Bustamante retaining power, without a compass, or a roadmap, for the way forward.
When declining health forced him to officially step aside and make way for our next prime Minister, the cultural rot had already been embedded, and the gangrene that was to follow was merely, delayed, not cauterized.
Enter, Sir Donald Sangster: Jamaica’s second Prime Minister, Sir Donald Sangster, was truly, an untested Prime Minister, whom historians say, could have made a difference, but sadly, due to ill health, was never afforded the time and or opportunity, to show his mettle. Ironically, Donald Sangster is listed in the record books as being Jamaica’s shortest-serving Prime Minister, having been sworn in on February the 22nd, 1967, until he fell ill a few days later, whilst reportedly, working on his first Budget. He was flown to Canada, courtesy of a Jet loaned for the purpose by the US, and was officially declared dead on April 11th of that same year. Technically, Donald Sangster had only served as Prime Minister for a few days. This caused many to speculate about the cause of his death; and if he was already dead, when he was flown to Canada, for treatment.
Hugh Lawson Shearer: Was named by the JLP to succeed Donald Sangster. And became the Country’s third Prime Minister. Even though his tenure was wracked by internal strife in the JLP with many stories emerging of many plots to unseat him, and threats on his life, his tenure as Prime Minister is generally regarded as a mixed bag, as whilst he behaved as a reactionary, and apologist for the racist colonials, his time at the helm of government, did produce some positives.
His was a tenure that presided over the banning of books, mostly Black Literature; and declared a number of pro-black activists Persona Non-Grata, for their roles as human-rights activists, and pro-black spokesmen. One such Activist was the late Historian Walter Rodney, who was banned in October 1968 when the government prevented the historian from re-entering the country, after a trip abroad.
On 16 October a series of riots, known as the Rodney Riots broke out, after peaceful protest by students from the University of the West Indies campus at Mona, was suppressed by the police; causing rioting to spread throughout Kingston. Shearer stood by the ban claiming that Rodney was a danger to Jamaica, citing his socialist ties, trips to Cuba and the USSR, as well as his Black Nationalism. Shearer’s position was so off base, it caused many to say, his position on Black Nationalism and Pan Africanism were influenced by the US Government, who promised investments, if he were to toe the line.
Others say, however, that Shearer, was an obviously black man, in a position of rank and privilege who was wholly uncomfortable with the skin, he found himself in. And so, identified more with the Colonial bourgeois than with the Black population, and or the emerging Rastafarian Movement, Garvey’s Activism and notions of Pan-Africanism, and black nationalism, as all these emerging new political movements, made him uncomfortable and so he took repressive steps to inhibit their growth and influence.
His retrograde attempts to subjugate and or repress, the aspirations of the emerging new Movement of Black Consciousness, not-withstanding, His term as Prime Minister was regarded as materially a prosperous one for Jamaica, as there were three new Aluminum refineries built, along with the opening up of the Country to the International Tourism market, which saw the construction of three New Resorts. That would go on to form the foundation of Jamaica’s mining and tourism industries, the two biggest earners for the country.
The question, is, did Shearer trade our newly found Independence and the emergence of a Black Intelligentsia and entrepreneurial class, for US hegemony and paltry investment? As repression was everywhere and the stranglehold of the Country that became Shearer’s management style, was rebuffed by the Electorate, and Shearer and his Government was voted out of office in the General Elections of 1972., as the Opposition PNP led by the Charismatic Michael Norman Manley, rode the wave of discontent and Shearer’s unpopularity, to Victory.
And, that was how, Michael ‘Joshua’ Manley, became the Country’s Fourth Prime Minister!
Now, if Hugh Lawson Shearer, was the rank apologist for the Plantation/Colonial class, Michael Norman Manley, Was the Polar Opposite. The curious thing was Shearer, was the obviously Black man, who sought to repress his black countrymen; Manley was the white-looking Blackman, who sought to empower his Black countrymen by breaking down all the vestiges and privileges the Colonial classes enjoyed., presided over the redistribution of land, and wealth; promoted blackness, and reinvested in Education, so the Black masses could educate themselves and earn their way out of poverty.
And Manley did not go for the superficial structures of white dominance either, he went in for the kill,, by going straight for the Jugular, much to the chagrin and eternal disappointment of the ruling classes, who in their disappointment, said he had betrayed his class. And dubbed him Public Enemy Number One, for daring to reorder the society, to create a more equitable one, after the left-over fiasco of feigned equality left by the announcement of Independence, but left the Plantocrats, their heirs, and successors, still bleeding the life source of the Country, whilst handing pittance to the Black-population, to appease them and stave off riots and bloodshed.
As Prime Minister, Michael Manley undertook one of the most successful and revolutionary policy agenda, ever undertaken by a democratically elected Government. This agenda included: Land (Reform) Redistribution; Free Education, up to the Tertiary Level; Maternity Leave, (some First World countries are still fighting for this right); Free Health Care; Agricultural innovation that included the introduction of Micro dams to make small farming more sustainable; an embrace of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Pan Africanism; His government giving the nod to the Rastafarian movement. Infrastructural rehabilitation and development with the introduction and creation of new highways, Building new health clinics, expansion of the Health program and the feeding program to accommodate the expansion of early childhood education; and a very aggressive housing development strategy, to take more Jamaicans off the Plantations and their barracks houses and put them in their own homes. Plus a swathe of social legislation such as the eradication of the stigma and legal deprivation of children born out of wedlock, saw them no longer being classified as Bastards, and able to inherit.
He singlehandedly raised the international Diplomatic stature of Jamaica, with his global advocacy and fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa; Changed the international discourse on global issues; reordered the North-South Dialogue; opened up avenues of cooperation with Africa, the Caribbean and Central America. Lent his voice and that of Jamaica to the Struggles of International Freedom fighters; in the middle of all of this became such a thorn in the US side, they took the decision to squash him, and so they partnered with then Opposition Leader, Edward Seaga and the JLP, to bring him down, even at the cost of disrupting the Jamaican economy; by promoting armed conflict; food shortages; dollar scarcity and insecurity; and a massive propaganda campaign and open warfare, that threatened Manleys life.
As one former US State Department employee said in an off-the-record conversation some years ago, when it came to Michael Manley and his global influence, nothing was off the table, in regards to neutralizing him and his populist message of Non-alignment and self-determination.
So after sponsoring a bloody election campaign and an international smear campaign against Michael Manley and the impending arrival of Communism, as the next form of Government, many of the well-to-do and monied decided to cash it in and migrate. And they flee in droves. A consequence of this is many off-loaded prime real estate for pennies on the dollar. Causing a dramatic social shift, and realignment of wealth, as those who sold and ran, made way for others to step-up.
And so it was, that after two tumultuous terms as Prime Minister, of Jamaica, Michael Manley, lost power to his Handpicked US candidate, Edward Phillip George Seaga, who became Independent Jamaica’s 5th Prime Minister., After the Bloody Elections of 1980.
Unlike Michael Manley, who was a reluctant politician and only became PNP President, after he was beseeched to enter the political fray, that saw him winning and going on to become Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, had coveted the office of Prime Minister, the second he entered the Political arena. One can truly admire his grit and determination, if not his path, to the Office of Prime Minister.
Before ascending to the office of Leader Of the JLP, Edward Seaga built a political fiefdom that would rival the state and its Security, apparatus. That would go on to become the base of a criminal enterprise, spanning the world, and would later challenge the supremacy of the State and its security machinery, even to this very day, becoming its own protected impenetrable enclave.
Seaga, surreptitiously, bulldozed the slum known as Back-a-Wall and replaced it with another slum, but this one made from concrete, and elevated to a high-rise, as if to distinguish it from neighbouring Slums, and named, Tivoli Gardens, no less.
If ever there was a misnomer, naming this urban Slum Tivoli Gardens, took the cake! The name was presumably inspired by the Jardin de Tivoli in Paris (which also gave inspiration for the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen), in turn from Italian Tivoli (a city in Lazio).
But Seaga’s real political career began in 1959 at the age of 29, when, the founder of the JLP, Bustamante nominated him to serve in the Upper House of the Jamaican Parliament, the Legislative Council (later the Senate) where he made his career launching speech of the “haves” and the “have nots”.
The path to Prime Ministership, began with his election, as the (MP) Member of Parliament In 1962, as the Member of Parliament for West Kingston, Immediately after winning his seat in 1962, Seaga was appointed to the Cabinet as Minister of Development and Welfare, with responsibility for all areas of planning, social development and culture. He initiated the redevelopment of Back O’Wall, the notorious large slum in West Kingston, into a political enclave, the first of its kind, where, residency demanded that you were a supporter Of Seaga and the JLP, or else…
An early Constitutional authority, Seaga was one of the founding fathers who helped frame the Jamaican Constitution in 1961, spearheaded far-reaching constitutional reforms and initiated a re-write of the human rights provision of the Constitution, to provide for a Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms; the creation of the post of Public Defender; and curtailment of some of the powers of the Prime Minister to provide a better balance of power between the executive and the parliament in the Jamaican system of governance.
In 1964, Seaga championed the cause calling for the return of the remains of Marcus Garvey to Jamaica. However, (Some said opportunistically) as four years later, Seaga was a part of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Hugh Shearer that banned Walter Rodney from Jamaica for allegedly stirring up racial hatred.
The 1970s saw an unprecedented level of political violence. This allegedly started in 1975, after Henry Kissinger failed in his attempts to get Manley to stop his support for Cuba and Angola, and their fight against the armies of apartheid South Africa..According to former CIA Operative, Philip Agee, the CIA supplied arms to supporters of the JLP, resulting in a significant upturn in political violence, during the Electioneering season.
Many accused Seaga and the JLP of fomenting and or spearheading the political violence, including the torching of the Yuletide Home, resulting in many of the indigents housed in the Home, perishing in what was believed to be a politically motivated arson. Seaga repeatedly denied the accusation, but the accusations and stink always remained
Seaga’s hope for political longevity, as Prime Minister, was shortcircuited however, as rather than seeing him as a saviour and being grateful, the electorate came to see him as the possible instigator of the Election Violence and puppet of the Americans. And so, pretty soon after his 1980 Election Landslide, he lost favour with the Electorate, becoming quite unpopular, to the point that in order to hold onto power, he called a snap-election in 1983, three-years after his Massive landslide, which, according to Michael Manley, was against a solemn undertaking Seaga had given, not to use an outdated Voters List, that lent itself to voter impersonation and fraud.
Manley boycotted the Election, and Seaga, ended up with a political Embarrassment on his hands, with all 60 Seats in the Nation’s Parliament, and with the odious task of having to Name all the Senators, to the upper chamber.
To his credit, and to give his Government a semblance of ‘legitimacy’, Seaga, did appoint what he termed Independent Senators to the Upper House, to appease those who were questioning the bona fides of the One Party Parliament.
Seaga held unto power until 1989, when he was forced to go back to the Electorate for a renewal of the 1980 mandate, but by then, the Electorate had grown tired of the reported skirmishes within his party, his draconian leadership style, and impetuosity, and had decided to give him the boot.
Seaga’s Contribution cannot and should not be measured and or bordered by his tenure as Prime Minister, But should be looked at in its totality, inclusive of his time in the Senate, as a Legislator, and MP, as a builder and or creator of Institutions that serves us to this day.
As it is important to note, that even whilst serving as Opposition Leader, Seaga continued his formidable contribution to the development of the Jamaican state. And even after he was forced into retirement by a band of rogue MPs and political aspirants, whom he had sidelined over the years, due to their ties to the criminal underground and otherwise questionable behaviour over time.
It should be noted, that even though Seaga had strong ties to the Criminal Gang dubbed the Shower Posse, which had its genesis in Tivoli Gardens, and its tentacles spreading to North America, Seaga, never co-mingled the business of the Government and the Shower Posse. Even though it was argued and credibly, that the Shower Posse, was the Enforcement Arm of the Seaga-led JLP, as strongman Jim Brown, kept many in line. That said, There was no credible evidence ever presented that the Posse benefitted from the association.
It should also be noted, that it was argued that many of those who colluded to send Seaga into political retirement, did so, because they saw the Shower Posse as a dormant organization that they could deploy, criminally, in service of the Political Interests of the JLP, something Seaga, was not enabling.
Seaga’s political downfall in 1989, saw the return of Manley to Power.. This Manley, however, was a more chaste, measured and even reflective. Some said a new Michael Manley, Gone was the impatience; the political firebrand, and the ideological divide that set him at odds with the US. Not that he had lost his fire, just his stridency. Some blamed his new approach, on the fact that they say, Manley had considered and accepted that the failure of his first tenure, in so far as there was failure, was due to the fact that many he had charged to execute policy and education, had failed to do so, opting instead to side with those Manley considered the Oppressors.
For Michael Manley, on the International stage, the fight was for a New Economic Order; and on the National level, it was for a New Social Order. Whilst Manley, anticipated that the New International Economic Order, would take time and was largely dependent on factors outside of Jamaica’s interventionist role; Michael Manley, anticipated that the New Social Order would be an easier task, as that would be A Jamaican initiative. Spearheaded and implemented by Jamaicans. But Manley Found that those tasked with the transformation were not fulsome in their approach and commitment.
And so, somewhat jaded, Michael Manley, stepped down from the leadership of the PNP and as head of the Government in 1992. Paving the way, for longtime Political Apprentice, Percival James Patterson, to ascend to the position of PNP President and the 6th Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Popularly known as PJ, Patterson’s ascendancy was always a given in the PNP, as he had given yeoman’s service to the PNP having served as a ‘Mentee’ to PNP Founding Father, Norman Washington Manley.. PJ was there when Michael Manley’s surprise entry into the leadership race to succeed his father caused the first major upset in the succession planning of the PNP, as then PNP stalwart Vivian Blake, was considered Norman Manley’s heir Apparent, and saw the subsequent election to decide his future as a necessary inconvenience as he and others considered him a shoo-in.
That was until the votes were counted and Michael Manley emerged victorious. Which was such a surprise for Blake and his team, he wept openly, and bitterly, at the loss. And went to his grave a deeply disappointed and perhaps bitter man.
Having been around for that first succession election, PJ Patterson knew better than to take his ascendancy for granted. As a young and vibrant Portia Simpson, had emerged, posing a challenge to PJ’s ascendancy and the Status Quo.
And so it was that when Michael Manley, stepped aside, many thought Portia Simpson, would have been the perfect spoiler, to upset PJ’s applecart and the cabal, who had attached itself to PJ and his fortunes, in the hope that as he rose, so would they. They expected and cautioned Portia Simpson, that she should await her turn, as it was not yet her turn and any attempt to challenge PJ would and could lead to harming her own chances when the political wind shifted and shift they said it would, in her favour,, but she had to bide her time!
Well, she did not, and the PJ camp went all out to finish her off Politically, but she had what Patterson did not. Charisma and a genuine connection to the people, and in challenging Patterson for the Leadership, she set herself up as the Front-runner, for the next leadership battle.
Today, PJ is listed as the longest-serving Prime Minister in the Country’s history. Serving a total of 14 unbroken years. His contribution is still being debated and assessed but what can not be questioned were his attempts to modernize the Country’s infrastructure with new road networks, the expansion of the Tourism product offering, and the political maturity, he brought to the national body Politik. Whilst Michael Manley was given to grandiose pronouncement, delivered with oratorical aplomb, PJ Patterson was your pedantic politician, who was rightly regarded as a plodder., causing many to underestimate him to their own peril, as he was the man with the long-term vision, and the memory of an elephant.
Armed with a Black Nationalist agenda, and one who never forgot a sleight and or a snub. Those who knew him best, said of him, that those were the guiding tenets, that informed his policy-making decisions, as Prime Minister.
They say, his unofficial campaign slogan “Black Man Time Now”, was more of a policy directive than it was campaign rhetoric. As he grew up in post-colonial Jamaica, He would have lived and or witnessed firsthand, the social discrimination, young black people suffered during the post-slavery era. and particularly, during the fight for Independence. The bourgeoisie establishment would have been intolerant of Jamaicans like him, and their clamouring for independence. And not just intolerant, but brutally unkind, as they fought to preserve their own status.
Correspondingly, it has been said of PJ Patterson, that he has done more than any other political leader in our history, to ‘empower his associates’, whilst quietly restructuring the society, to reflect the inclusion of the Black majority, in the burgeoning business class, in the decision-making processes, whilst creating the opportunities for them to join the growing black-business class.
Being fully cognizant that the black majority dominated the intelligentsia, it has been posited that PJ, was single-minded in his focus, in seeking to widen the business class to include more blacks, and this led to the creation of a Kitchin-Cabinet (a cadre of trusted advisors) who were tasked with the restructuring of the business sector and the opportunities.
His policy was not to disenfranchise anyone set to promote a Black Agenda, but that he was sufficiently aware that the table was already tilted in favour of the non-blacks, due to generational wealth; systemic biases, that favoured the lighter shade skin Jamaicans; and thereby left the Black majority at a disadvantage. It was said, PJ sought to place his hand on the scale, in favour of the black majority.
Like Michael Manley before him, he too would be disappointed by those whom he entrusted to implement his policy, as instead of seeking to increase their numbers, many of whom benefitted from the favorable policies that were designed to help others succeed and to pull others up, became drunk with power, engaged in widescale conspicuous consumption, to announce their arrival, and did very little, to help others climb the ladder of success. In fact, there were many who reportedly tried pulling up the ladder after they had used it, to prevent others from ascending to the lofty positions of power and influence, they had ascended to.
In this respect, PJ Patterson had a successful tenure as Prime Minister. He Did not just occupy the crease but scored some invaluable runs, that will stand the Country in good stead, over time. It was he who ended the 18-year-old deleterious borrowing relationship with the IMF, whose punitive measures and riders were a drain on the country, provoking near revolts as the population had grown sick and tired of the belt-tightening measures that accompanied IMF loan agreements. His activism as a Pan-Africanist earned him the respect and friendship of many African Leaders and him/Jamaica, a seat at the table when it came time to discuss and or engage African countries who were steadfast in their decision to break away from their colonial umbilical cords and establish their own new navel-strings.
His experience and reputation as a skilled and gifted negotiator at the National, Regional, and International levels, served him and the country, well, as Prime Minister. And to this day, as he is regarded as the region’s Elder Statesman and Prime Minister Emeritus.
Having served as Prime Minister for 14 years as the nation’s winningest Prime Minister, who broke the two-term limit imposed by the electorate, the Party delegates and the Electorate were growing restless, and hankering for change. Despite PJ’s favourable ratings and positive political impact, it was time to breathe new political energy into the Leadership of the PNP, and so, pressured by Party stalwarts and advisors, PJ Patterson, decided to step down from representational Politics, call it a day and go home to spend time with his Children and their Children. And in 2006, handed in his resignation, And this was how Portia Simpson, who had gotten married by then, became Jamaica’s First Female and 7th Prime Minister..
Portia Lucretia Simpson-Miller was the beloved of the People; a servant of the people and a Jamaican Political icon, who upended the political establishment by daring to dream, and fulfilled her dream with the blessing of the people.
Not born to power, rank, and or privilege, she was a young woman from rural St, Catherine, who moved to Kingston for a better life. Whilst studying in Kingston, she became smitten by the bug of altruism and thought the best way to truly serve the People, was to do so in the tradition of Norman Manley and Bustamante, by seeking to represent the people.
Fortuitously, her chance to enter the representational foray, came in 1974, when the PNP failing to find a recognizable candidate for the Trench Town Parochial Division in the Parish Council Elections, asked the neophyte Portia Simpson, to step in, fully expecting her to lose, and lose badly.
Well the young girl from Woodhall, had different plans. And so she scored a convincing victory, after putting in the groundwork. And that proved to be her springboard as, by the time the General Elections came around in 1976 (Two Years Later), the PNP, realizing they had a firebrand on their hand, asked her to represent the Party As the MP Candidate for the South West St Andrew Constituency, and here again, she scored a convincing Victory, over her Opponent, and went on to retain the Seat in subsequent elections, bar 1983 when the PNP refused to Contest the General Elections.
From her victory in the 76 Elections, the PNP began using her as a ‘night-watchamn’, deploying her to troubled spots, where the JLP in its fight for control of the streets and dominance would attempt to flood polling stations and vote them out, to coerce a fraudulent win.
Well, Portia, was her own political force, and she would meet these disruptive forces head-on, forcing those who would stuff ballot boxes and or steal boxes in PNP strongholds, to back away and or rethink their strategies.
And so, she became known as A General, of the Party, of the same ranking as stalwarts Tony Spaulding, and DK Duncan, who were regarded as fearless Political Generals on the frontline for the PNP., commanding the respect of their opponents and the fierce loyalty of their supporters.
Watching her rise and stride, in 1987, a group of admirers decided that she was an asset to the Party, and given the right set of circumstances, could become a Contender, for the Party’s coveted Leadership, instead of a warboat, protecting those who did not possess the political capital, to defend themselves. And started a mentorship program for her, that would see her pursuing further educational studies; exploring the Jamaican Cultural Landscape, and being guided by the Late Professor Rex Nettleford, who saw in her a heroine of the People, for the people and by the people, and accepted the proposal to be a Mentor, to the budding politician.
Now many activists who opposed her, for daring to dream; and challenge the anointed PJ Patterson, were as unkind, as they attacked her from a position of group ignorance, largely unaware that she had taken the time to reducate and prepare herself for leadership. And so, presuming she was still the naive energetic young woman from Woodhall, attacked her mercilessly, trafficking in hate-filled venom and such vitriolic prejudice, it was shocking., to the point of revolting, and instead of turning off voters, made them see her as one of them being given a fight. And as the masses was accustomed to being fought, they understood and so decided to fight with and for her.
In fact, many of those who questioned Portia Simpson-Miller’s right to Stand for the PNP Presidency, did so from a platform of sheer social prejudice, assuming that because they had been to name-brand schools, in Kingston, and had lived in uptown bedroom communities, somehow, that translated into them being ‘better’ than her. And so sought to style, classify, and disqualify her, based on where she was coming from, and not what she had to offer; her vision, and or her capabilities.
And so, they went to town, vilifying her, questioning her education, her background, competence, and even her womanhood. They were desperate to disqualify her, after all, there were at least 3-men, going up against her who held some kind of a Doctorate or another. There were others who thought the fact that they were born male, made them superior to her. But, all the obstacles they highlighted and hoped would have been disqualifiers, were already processed by the Party’s Delegates, and accepted as attributes, as what others considered her shortcomings, her supporters considered assets, as it reminded them of themselves, their own aspirations, and determination to reorder their lives. And so, in the end, did not ignite the anti-Portia backlash, they hoped it would have.
Finally, when the propaganda and negative campaigning did not work, they sought to use hard cash to influence the delegates by offering them money for their support. Some delegates did take their money and still supported Portia. But the coup de grace, was the fact that an impenetrable wall of delegates was amassed and housed privately away from the lobbyists, working the delegates offering them the sun, moon, and eleven stars, for their votes.
Safely ensconced in two of Kingston’s leading Hotels, these delegates were not revealed until they were transported under armed guard to the polling stations at Jamaica College. And whoever it was who had devised the strategy, it was a masterstroke, because at the end of the counting, Mrs. Simpson-Miller, emerged victorious with a margin of less than a hundred votes, even though her team had predicted going into the election that she would win comfortably by hundreds of votes.
Having trounced the big wigs, then it was onto the business of governing the Country.
With the PNP pulling itself in multiple directions like a hydra, it was difficult for Mrs. Simpson-Miller to harness the energies of the Party into one cohesive force, and so she ended up spending way too much time trying to consolidate her grip on power, as well as trying to appease her detractors as well as mollifying those who had committed themselves to her political destruction. So much so, that when she was advised by her own Party, that a General Election was in order she followed their advice and called general Elections, for September 2007, Many, including her supporters, thought she was kelter, and they were proven right, as Bruce Golding, who by then had become the leader of the JLP, with the support of the private Sector and the monied class, had managed to stitch together a winning coalition, that bested The Simpson-Miller led, PNP, at the Polls.
And that was how, Orett Bruce Golding, became Independent Jamaica’s 8th, Prime Minister.
Now Orett Bruce Golding was a man, born, schooled, and groomed for the Job of Prime Minister, from the very get-go. In fact, his marriage to Lorna Charles, the sister of Pearnell Charles, was seen as a marriage of political convenience to strengthen, his appeal to JLP voters and make him more attractive to the voting electorate.
To begin with, Bruce Golding, a pocked face red-man or red-ibo, as he was sometimes called, was never considered a shoo-in to the JLP leadership, as whilst he was considered a loyal lieutenant, he had zero charisma, winning formulae, that helped most winning Prime Ministerial candidates, over the finish line.
Now Golding, the son of JLP pillar Tacious Golding was considered a natural, by some. And when Edward Seaga, anointed him as such, many political pundits, thought Golding’s path to the JLP throne was assured. But, as they say: A day in Politics is quite a long time. And with Golding serving as Edward Seaga’s longtime heir in waiting, and Seaga, showing no signs of early retirement, Golding managed to have others convince him that aligning himself with a breakaway Party from the JLP and challenging the Seaga-led JLP, and the Patterson-led PNP, would be his safest and smoothest way to circumvent Edward Seaga’s stranglehold on the JLP and become a credible contender for the coveted role of Prime Minister.
And so it was that in 1995, Bruce Golding accepted the offer to become the head of the NDM, and despite its lofty manifesto and platform promises, the NDM was nothing more than a bunch of disgruntled Labourites and Ex-Labourites, who had gotten tired of Edward Seaga, and wanted him gone. So they banded together, under the banner of the NDM, in an effort to smoke him out. Now this proved an unmitigated disaster for Golding and his new party, the NDM (National Democratic Movement), as Jamaica was simply not ready for a third party, not even one led by one of its favourite political sons!
As Edward Seaga, went nowhere, and stood resolutely at the helm of the Opposition JLP, with the acknowledged pretender Bruce Golding yapping at his heels, given daily succour and comfort by a disparate group of ex-Labourites and a number of anti-Seaga, pro-Golding Media players, who pandered to his every political whim and fancy, lead the Golding charge in their united efforts, to displace the wily old man of Jamaican Politics.
This presented Patterson with an opportunity to take advantage of the feuding JLP and the polarising bitter rift, as Patterson rightly calculated that it would make the party easy pickings at the polls, and announced General Elections, in 1997, resulting in a political thumping for the Seaga-led JLP and Golding-led NDM (the Baby JLP) a sound political trashing. And so it wasn’t long before the funders, backers, and supporters of the NDM, who were mostly disaffected members of the JLP, were screaming bloody murder and demanding that Bruce Golding, return to the JLP to continue the fight if he intended to become a credible candidate for the post of Prime Minister of Jamaica.
And so it was, after an internecine fight within the JLP to displace Seaga, and a deal brokered by business mogul Denis Lalor and others, that saw Seaga taking up a bursary at the University of the West Indies and Bruce Golding returning to the JLP, Golding settled in and readied to battle with Portia Simpson-Miller,
Simpson-Miller’s Political timing, when it came to General Elections, was off. And so she announced General Elections for 2011, And so Orett Bruce Golding won and took up the Job, of Prime Minister.
Now, one would have imagined that Golding having been coveting the Job of Prime Minister for decades, his wife reportedly practicing to exercise her role as ‘First Lady’, with equal aplomb, he would have had, a raft of Policies and initiatives to guide his tenure. Sadly this proved not to be so. And like Simpson-Miller before him, spent far too much valuable time, trying to placate those he thought he was indebted to; those who still saw him and treated him as a Traitor; and in the absence of decisive leadership, Corruption became the order of the day.
During his tenure, Golding proved he was an over-rated politician, who became the darling of some in the media, and so faced no real scrutiny, and eased into the office of PM with enormous goodwill, but pretty soon revealed his true character, and that was he was like chaff, blows where the wind does with no abiding principles or conviction, to anchor him, save and excepting a craven lust for power.
And we know how that ended.
Golding, (some say) lost his moral compass, (Dont know how you apportion a man who garrisonized the once laidback old city of Spanish Town and made it into a hotbed, of violence) a moral compass. Be that as it may, With many in the JLP fighting for the right to become the de facto head of the Shower-Posse, as the support of Strongman Dudus, could make or break a JLP politician or the Party Leader, the Queue to curry favour with Dudus, was long and winding.
Unfortunately for Golding, Dudus’s. power and notoriety in the International underworld had caught the attention of US Law-enforcement authorities. And they wanted Dudus to face their Courts, to send a signal to Jamaican Gangsters.
Well, what do you know, the US put in an extradition request. And Bruce Golding, diverted State or Party resources, to defend, Dudus. And even had the gall to utter some nonsensical comment about Democracy did not stop or start in Liguanea, (the address of the US Embassy).
Well in for a penny, in for a pound. And this led to the JLP/Government retaining the services of US Lawyers, to fight the Extradition request.
Needless, to say, that did not go down well at all, and the US State Department just ratcheted up the pressure,
Golding responded by digging in his heels causing some to wonder if what Dudus had on Bruce and the JLP, was so bad, that he ran the risk of being cut off by the US, rather than honour the extradition request?”
As the fight over the request dragged on, stories were leaked that Dudus, who was supposedly a fugitive, was being housed in a Government House in the Hills of St. Ann. The Americans then decided to stop pussyfooting around and Airforce 2, arrived in Montego Bay, its passenger, US Secretary of State, Hilary Rodham Clinton, who reportedly read Golding the riot act, and issued him an ultimatum, as reports were, the US Secretary of State made it clear to the Jamaican Prime Minister, it was either his resignation and Dudus, or the US would issue an international warrant for his arrest if he refused.
And so, fearing for his own wellbeing, the order was given for the Rev. Al Miller (A longtime JLP Sympathizer and Operative) to ‘transport’ Dudus back to Kingston, where he could be handed over to the Police and subsequently, US Marshals and DEA Agents. Sadly, his surrender came weeks after Bruce Golding had ordered a full-scale invasion of Tivoli Gardens, by over 800 Soldiers, and just under 400 Police, personnel, resulting in the killing of over 150 civilians.
Now, when it comes to assessing Bruce Golding’s tenure as Prime Minister, it’s hard not to classify it as a total failure, as this was when the widescale corruption we now see overrunning the JLP, started taking root. The breakdown of the State began in earnest after the invasion of Tivoli and the leaking of the story, that the Prime Minister had deployed resources in defense of International Druglord, Dudus, instead of handing him over the the US. Jamaica’s international Standing plummeted; The Country crashed out of the League of civilized nations, The Country’ came close to collapsing as we failed IMF tests, were treated as Pariahs by the International financial community, and lost our favoured Nation Status, within Caricom, the EU and Elsewhere. With the State collapsing around him it was becoming clear to even Golding, that he was an unmitigated disaster and had to go. And this was how Andrew Michael Holness, Became the Nation’s 9th Prime Minister.
Born in Spanish Town, and a graduate of the St Catherine High School, where he met his future wife Juliet, Holness, was an ambitious youngster, who was determined to climb out of social mediocrity, and saw politics as his saving grace.
He began by “insinuating” his way into Edward Seaga’s good graces, by working for a pittance in Seaga’s Premium Group, all the time keeping his eyes on the political prize., by creating the impression that he was indeed being mentored by Seaga, to succeed him, when nothing was farther from the truth.
He proved however quite adept and agile in mastering the political game, and in doing so, managed to, outsmart them all, with his skillfully crafted narrative of being Seaga’s protegee, and heir appointed, he outfoxed them all, even managing to convince Seaga to let him be the Party’s standard bearer, for the troublesome West Central St. Andrew Seat, which he won, at the age of 25, in 1997, with it was said, a little vote buying, intimidation, and threats.
And this was no easy feat as this was a seat with a history of bogus voting, voter intimidation, violence, and terror, as par for the course in selecting a winner. It was said that Holness aligned himself with the political hoodlums within the Constituency, and those from the neighbouring Tivoli Gardens, to secure his victory. A coalition it is said he maintained since then, to go on to win four consecutive terms as MP.
It has been said he was not a particularly good MP, but a shrewd politician, and whilst he ignores the Constituency year round, he knows the winning Election Formula, one which he employed against his political colleague and Opponent for the Leadership of the JLP, in 2011, when he went up against the establishment preferred candidate Audley Shaw, after Bruce Golding ‘stepped’ aside.
It is important to note, that Golding endorsed Holness, to succeed him, but by and large, Holness did not get into the succession race until after he was invited to a parley at the Cherry Gardens residence of then JLP Big-wig and party mover and shaker Harold Brady, at an event that was largely being hosted by Brady to endorse and back the candidacy of Audley Shaw. The inside story is, as Holness was on his way to the meeting to pledge his support to Shaw, he got a telephone call, from a friend of Shaw, who advised him if his Holness for Shaw was conditional on Shaw promising to name him as Deputy Prime Minister, following Shaw’s elevation, then he should reconsider his position, as Shaw had made a similar promise to Christopher Tufton.
Armed with that information, It is said, it was after that call that Holness decided he would throw his hat in the ring, of succession, and made the announcement when MPs were being Polled for their endorsement of Shaw, at Brady’s residence. It was further reported that Holness’s announcement was greeted with shock, as it was widely believed Shaw would have been an interim leader, who would have eventually handed over to Holness, but his announcement had thrown into disarray, all those well-crafted plans.
Reports were following on Holness’s announcement, firebrand St Catherine MP Everald Warmington announced that he would be supporting Holness’s candidacy, and following his announcement, the entire plan to anoint Shaw as Golding’s successor fell apart, resulting in an ugly Election run-off, which saw Holness emerging as Victor, Party Leader, and Prime Minister.
When Edward Seaga, was asked why he thought Bruce Golding supported the Younger Holness, who was facing questions about his character and honesty, Seaga, said Golding did so because he thought Holness was such a weak choice, that the Party Officers and Supporters would be calling for his own reinstatement, as Party Leader and Prime Minister, after seeing how inept Holness really was, within Months, if not weeks.
Well, as we all know, that never happened. Holness went on to serve as Prime Minister from October 2011 through June 2012, when being pulled in different directions by a fractious Labour Party, he and his Party misread the political temperature and announced general Elections, and was booted out of office. This led to the return of the ever-popular Portia Simpson Miller, as Prime Minister, And one of the most significant periods of Governance in the Nation’s history.
With Bruce Golding and The JLP Administration defaulting on its IMF Loan, no one was talking to Jamaica. And in 2012, Jamaica was locked out of the World’s Financial Markets. Resulting in the Country being a borderline Failed State, as the JLP had taken the Country, to the edge of the Financial precipice and near total collapse.
Bruce Golding having abandoned the Agreement with the IMF, the Country lost the Trust and Respect of the Global Financial Community.
Suffering eleven consecutive quarters of economic decline and drowning in a debt, that had ballooned to $1.7 Trillion Dollars and a Debt to GDP ratio of 145 percent, every Jamaican man, woman, and child, was indebted to our creditors to the sum of a Six-Hundred Thousand Dollars. Then there were skyrocketing prices of goods and services; the drying up of investments; Business and Consumer Confidence at an all-time low; and crime spiralling out of control.
It was Portia Simpson-Miller, who as the Nation’s Ambassador Extraordinaire, as Prime Minister, used her contacts within the US Government to Lobby the IMF to reengage Jamaica; and with her team, led by Dr. Peter Phillips, fashioned an Economic programme that received multi-lateral support, including approval of critical budget support financing from the IMF. Resulting in the IMF and Jamaica forging a partnership that foresaw Jamaica’s planning and implementation continuously reviewed and monitored by the IMF, and The Simpson-Miller-led Government passing every single IMF test. Causing a financial reset.
Today, Jamaica’s debt to GDP hovers around 77 percent; and the country is socially stable, as Mrs Simpson-Miller used her political capital to keep the Country stable during the Economic Reform Programme and the attendant fiscal adjustments that predicated hardship on the population. But returned the Country to good International Standing Financially, which saw US President Barak Obama, visiting Jamaica; and IMF President Christine La Garde, praising Jamaica and holding up the Model as the blueprint for others to follow. The creation of a Tourism Master Plan; the initiation of the Western Hospital For Children; A rebooting of the Farm Work program; renewed investment is sports and generally leaving Jamaica, in a better place, than she found it, after the fiasco, that was the Golding’s era.
As we said earlier, sadly Mrs. Simpson-Miller was off, when it came to timing Elections and despite her many economic victories that repositioned and saved the Jamaican economy, she narrowly lost to Andrew Holness, who since his return to power, has led a scandal infested Government reeking of endemic corruption, smacks of serious maladministration, the flouting of the Jamaican Constitution and the erosion of Human rights dignity and creeping kleptocratic authoritarianism.
With seven years under his belt as Prime Minister, Holness is more likely to be remembered for the absence of a much-touted crime prevention plan; systemic corruption, Political nepotism, and a growing disconnect with the electorate, that threatens his political survival. And not just as Prime Minister after the Next General Elections, But long term. As few see a post-Prime Minister role, long or Short term, for him and or his wife, if they should lose office.
So, Since Independence, Jamaica has had, Nine (9) Prime Ministers, The JLP produced six of those nine in Alexander Bustamante; Donald Sangster, Hugh Shearer, Edward Seaga, Bruce Golding, and Andrew Holness; Correspondingly, The PNP has produced three Prime Minister with Michael Manley; PJ Patterson and Portia Simpson-Miller;.
Our First Prime Minister, Alexander Bustamante, was nothing more than a convenient oaf for the British, who having lost the trust of the People found an ally in Bustamante, A House Slave if you prefer, who would represent the interests of ‘Britania’ to the detriment of his people. And demonstrated this with the treatment of the Rastafari Population during the Mount Salem demonstrations, and subsequent policy initiatives which saw the Police and Military, treat the Rastafarian community, as White US Law Enforcers, treat with Black Americans.
Our Second Prime Minister Donald Sangster, held so much promise, a pity the Country and the World was robbed of his potential contribution. the loss of a Statesman, that life denied the opportunity to deliver on his promise.
Hugh Lawson Shearer, was thought of as another roast breadfruit, and not without merit, as it appeared as he was more concerned in maintaining the Status Quo than he was in empowering his people, he to became an Oppressor, banning Black Pan-Africanists; Banning Black Literature, and antagonizing the Rasta Community, he was ridiculed by the intelligentsia, so much so that a Standing joke at the time was that Shearer was so ignorant and Such an ass-kisser, in his quest to please his Plantation donors, he banned the Book, Black Beauty. He did, however, add capacity, as during his tenure, Jamaica’s fledgling Tourism Product, began taking on its own global identity as a destination like no other.
Edward Phillip George Seaga, was the next JLP Prime Minister. He proved a polarising figure, who bore the brunt of the political hatred, particularly after the divisive and Murderous Campaign of 1980 and his Re-election in 1983. There are few Policy prescriptions and or achievement that one can point to during his tenure save and except the fact that he was thought of as an adroit book-keeper. Who sought to balance the Government Books, on the backs of the poor, but destroyed their Ganja fields of the poor rural farmer, to placate the American War on Drugs, without seeking to replace the Marijuana crop with a viable cash crop to ease the financial constriction brought on by the destruction of the livelihood of many. The introduction of the of 807-Freezone Sweat Factories to boost employment numbers and create a pseudo sense of upward movement in the Country’s Employment Rate, but was in reality, a stopgap measure with no long term benefits. And so that too quickly lost its transient appeal. His real Success as Prime Minister was perhaps, his determination to keep the City Clean; and his no-nonsense approach to governance, which saw a doubling of the effort to have the business class pay their fair share of taxes.
But his real success came earlier as a Legislator, in creating lasting institutions that still serve the Country. As pillars ofd Good Governance, to this day.
Bruce Golding was the next JLP Prime Minister and he was a colossal failure, of the Guinness Book of World Records, magnitude. His tenure as Prime Minister saw nothing of consequence except the dark rabbit hole he had dragged the country into. That and a legacy of booming lawlessness, crowned with the invasion of Tivoli, not unlike His Party’s first Leader and Prime Minister, sending in the Police and army, into Coral Gardens, to instigate Murder and Mayhem.
The problem many still have with Golding’s tenure, is that whilst hunting the Job, he said and did the right things to appeal and appease, and as Prime Minister, made an ass of himself
Andrew Holness role as Jamaica’s ninth Prime Minister and the 6th Prime Minister to come out of the JLP is still being written, but to date, its nothing of which he can or should be proud, dogged by plausible claims of corruption, deception, constitutional abuse and dereliction of duty, Holness, is regarded as one who demanded fielty and fiddled whilst the country erupted in flames around him.
Many who knew him and watched him in the JLP over the years, says his flim-flam behaviour as Prime Minister, where he publicly disavows corruption but shelters those of corruption, says that’s not new and is how he has operated all his political life. They say, in all the years that he served the Labour Party, he is not on record for supporting ab=nyone, or anything of substance.
They when Seaga, was being attacked and vilified, he remained quiet whilst Seaga’s sought to destroy him. He took the same approach when a handful of JLP MPs decided it was time to be rid of Golding. And they say if one were to examine all the books and records, one would never find Andrew Holness advancing a Policy prescription; A Defense of the Party or It Leaders, prior to his ascension; or even castigating any of his own members, accused of Corruption, nepotism or abuse of office.
They say his only preoccupation is that of self aggrandizement.
In rating our Nine-Prime Ministers, we found, that of the 6-Prime Ministers who came to the Job from within the JLP, excepting for Hugh Shearer and his short stint, who built capacity, and Edward Seaga, who built Instutitions, the others are given failing grades. As occupying space and time with no tangible benefits to the Country, for their service.
From Golding’s monumental failure to grasp that as Prime Minister he served his Country and not His Party, and so had no business putting his Party’s interest above that of the Nation’s in the handling of the Entire Dudus matter, Golding earned the right of eternal ostracization, as one whose name should not be spoken publicly.
Donald Sangster, having spent only days in the Office is not up for Judgement, but his predecessor Alexander Bustamante, is, and he is found to have been a panderer, who followed the whims of the people instead of leading them. Latching on to a Foreign Policy, that brought little in return to the people, persecuted his own people, as he a Mulatto, sought to extinguish the flickers of Black Empowerment and Cultural awareness, to curry favour with the Plantocratic classes and Colonial adherents, he let loose the Police and the Army on the Rastafarians of Coral Gardens, who were slaughtered, abused and officially victimizedthe, for the crime of seeking recognition and understanding, that they did not see themselves of Children of the Colonial God, duty bound to worship at his Churches, Temples and or observe his precepts and Commandments unless it coincided with theirs.
Michael Manley, is considered one of our Greatest Prime Ministers, if not the Greatest, for his transformational leadership that empowered the masses of Jamaicans; his International advocacy and Militancy against Apartheid and those who supported Aparthied; His Legislative agenda that saw the enactment of laws such as Maternity Leave For Women; Equal Pay; Land Redistribution and empowerment of the People.
PJ Patterson, is perhaps the most underrated and misunderstood Prime Minister of this era. And perhaps one of the most successful. Many confused the PJ patterson Policy Agenda, of Black Empowerment, as corruption. The truth is there, there is no evidence of widescale corruption as was allged by his detractors, but what was found following a deep dive, into his administration was a systemic approach to the facilitation of the empowering of the Black Business and Entrepreneurial classes; with the tangible vision of the opening up of the Country, with new Roadways, Highways, More Resorts to facilitate More Employment; and a less volatile political atmosphere, where dialogue was seen as his go to, as against confrontation. A style that he employed dealing with thosewho opposed him, and as Prime Minister.
His Successor, Portia Lucretia Simpson-Miller, despite her detractors and naysayers, has emerged as perhaps the single most Transformational Leader of our time.
Lampooned and lambasted for her rural speaking style, and for her failure to affect the nasal drawl affected by those who want to identify with the social elite; the young woman from Woodhall, St Catherine, managed to prevent the total collapse and crash of the Jamaican economy; reorder the Country’s economic foundation and fortunes, creating the space, for the benefits of which the Holness administration,, shamelly appropriate, without bestowing her, any credit. And that, makes her one of our Most Successful Prime Minister to date!