The more things change the more they remain the same – Alphonse Karr, French critic, journalist and novelist
Portia Lucretia Simpson-Miller or Mamma recently emerged as the next president of the People’s National Party (PNP) and Prime Minister designate of Jamaica. Many Jamaicans simply erupted into unrestricted euphoria upon hearing the news. Very few stopped to think of the effects of such a victory on our beloved nation. The MCYL however wants to take this opportunity to congratulate Mrs. Simpson-Miller on her victory and wishes her all the best in her sojourn as Prime Minister of Jamaica. Yet, as an organization that encourages critical political thought we do have several reservations about her victory. Sadly though, any criticism of Portia Lucretia Simpson-Miller is viewed by far too many persons as being chauvinist, racist or classist.
Less Than Half
A majority of PNP delegates voted against Portia Mamma Simpson-Miller. What is striking is the fact that Portia Simpson-Miller was able to garner 47% of the total delegates’ vote. A whopping 53% of voting PNP delegates supported someone other than Mrs. Simpson-Miller. A minority therefore elected her, which is clearly not much of a mandate. Why is that 53% of PNP delegates had no confidence in voting for Portia Simpson-Miller? In several other countries some sort of run-off would have been immediately called for.
Part of the Problem
How can any rational person argue that Portia is the answer to Jamaica’s problems? Portia Simpson-Miller has been a part of the PNP since the 1970s. She has been a PNP Member of Parliament since 1976 and a PNP Minister of Government since 1989. She has been an integral part of inarguably the most malicious, corrupt, incompetent, imprudent and profligate government ever in the history of this country. Mrs. Simpson-Miller has as a very senior member of the Government and the PNP gone along with all the ruinous policies and positions of the government. She hasn’t, with the exception of one public relations stunt in Parliament, ever challenged or censured her colleagues for their malicious and maladroit handling of the affairs of our country.
The more things change the more they remain the same. Don’t allow Team Portia spokespersons to bamboozle you. There will be no change whatsoever in how Jamaica is governed. Dr. Omar Davies, Dr. Peter Phillips, Phillip Paulwell, Robert Pickersgill and the slew of other failing Ministers will continue to occupy key government posts. The same is true for the leadership of state agencies. So, don’t get your hopes up.
Scandal after Scandal
One would have thought that well thinking Jamaicans would have analysed Portia Simpson-Miller’s performance in her respective Ministerial portfolios before considering her for the top job. The most prominent illustrations of her failures are the National Solid Waste Management Authority scandal, Jamaica Fire Brigade scandal, the hubbub at the Jamaica Tourist Board, the treatment of Parish Councils and the shameful state of her South-West St. Andrew constituency. Despite these and other pitfalls directly related to her, the media has continued to feed into her tantalizing charisma.
Formidable allegations of massive misappropriation, fraud, corruption and cronyism to the tune of $2Billion dollars has crippled the National Solid Waste Management Authority [NSWMA], a state agency to which Portia Simpson-Miller is directly responsible for. The handling of the matter by the Minister was sloppy and illustrates a high level of managerial incompetence. Mrs. Simpson-Miller must have been cognizant of the alarming fact that the Agency had not produced any audited financial reports to the Auditor General over the last 2 YEARS, in direct violation of the Public Bodies Accountability Act.
Matters were exacerbated by the fact that a self-acclaimed genetically linked PNP supporter made off with $84million from a contract, that was not put up for tender, and expensive SUVs bought by the agency. It took her after weeks of uproar by concerned citizens, the Opposition and the media for her to call in the police to conduct investigations. Does the sloppy, lethargic and nonchalant handling of the NSWMA affair by her, augur well for someone who wants to lead our beloved country?
Jamaica Fire Brigade
The Jamaica Fire Brigade under her administration has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. Houses, business establishments and most sorrowfully lives have been lost due to the gross lack of equipment. She must be blamed for the terrible state of the brigade.
Her performance as Tourism Minister has also been ridiculed in many quarters. Relations between her Ministry of Tourism and the Jamaica Tourist Board [JTB] were at best tense. Things were further complicated by a major mismanagement and multi-million dollar fraud scandal to rock JTBs New York City office. Her handling of this huge scandal, which saw the JTB being slapped with a US$20 million lawsuit by an employee, was seen in many quarters as inept and indecisive. As if things could not have gotten worse, business tycoon Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart levied criticism on the JTBs, “rank incompetence and chaos”. All in all Mrs. Simpson-Miller had to be moved from this sensitive and weighty responsibility in a cloud of immense controversy and possible incompetence.
South-West St. Andrew to which she has been MP for approximately two decades is inarguably one of if not the most underdeveloped, poverty ridden and crime-infested communities of our nation. The living conditions of residents in this garrison constituency are appalling. Is she not disturbed by the fact that in the 21st century many of her residents have no access to proper sanitary conveniences or even running water? The constituency is frankly hell on earth. Mrs. Portia Simpson-Miller being such a powerful government official should be ashamed.
What I find particularly frightening is the fact that Portia Simpson-Miller’s campaign lacked the level of issues based themes that one would expect from political leaders of the 21st century. Her campaign was primarly focused on hype, sensationalism and the fact that she was a woman. There was absolutely no talk about the need to promote the respect of human rights, the promulgation of constitutional reform or even how she intends to cut down on widespread government corruption.
Despite Portia Mamma Simpson-Miller becoming president of the PNP and Prime Minister designate of Jamaica there is still hope for our country. The Bruce Golding led Jamaica Labour Party and young intelligent Jamaicans like you will have to step in and save Jamaica from its continued race to the bottom. Our country has already suffered enough under the leadership of Michael Manley and PJ Patterson. Let us as well thinking Jamaicans unite and begin racing to the top.
* Please note that these opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Jamaicans.com