JIS News

Periodically, there are singular moments and occurrences that are defining in their scope and character. These extraordinary moments are not always identified and recognised at their point of occurrence, but must be followed to their destinations if their significance is to be understood.
The swearing in of Member of Parliament, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller, as the seventh Prime Minister of Jamaica must certainly rank among the defining moments in the history of this country.
This momentous event is located in the present but its genesis is traced to the history of our people in the New World.
Women were courageous enough to build and maintain their families and yet audacious enough to challenge and accelerate the conquest of slavery and colonialism. They were some of the most potent voices in the quest for the independence of our nation. They comprise the backbone of our political and social organisations and they continue to demonstrate an enviable capacity to master any and all professions.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS DAY IN OUR HISTORY
Today, Jamaicans of all walks of life; the peoples of neighbouring countries of the Caribbean Community and beyond; every aspirant for high office will, on this occasion, recognise that the fundamental principle of human equality has been established and permeates our society.
Human equality and by extension gender equity; equality of opportunity and equality of responsibility must not be merely enshrined in our Constitution and embedded in our consciousness, it must reveal itself in national policies and manifest itself within our institutions.
The fight for human equality was not undertaken and won at the plantation and global levels to be stifled at the national level; denied at the organisational level; or diluted at the political level. Consequently, I believe that all Jamaicans have speculated that it was only a matter of time – now less than five decades after national independence – before a woman Prime Minister would emerge from the ranks of our political organisations.
Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora heard the shouts of jubilation that erupted from men and women at Old Hope Road when Prime Minister the Most Honourable P. J. Patterson, in his capacity as President of the People’s National Party announced that delegates to a special conference had chosen the Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller as his replacement. It was a momentous disclosure that signaled her eventual elevation to the esteemed office of Prime Minister of Jamaica.
But it is not only in Jamaica and in CARICOM Member States that people have been rejoicing at this event. From the international community, there has been an outpouring of goodwill at the fact that Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister has joined the band of her illustrious predecessors and those currently holding this high office.
TRIBUTE TO THE MOST HON. P. J. PATTERSON
Retiring Prime Minister, the Most Honourable P. J. Patterson, I know that Jamaicans would never forgive me if I were not to express our grateful acknowledgement for your remarkable and enduring contributions to this nation and to the Caribbean Community.
There is a debt that we all owe you, a distinguished son-of-the-soil, that is today being paid in part in the unreserved admiration we feel for you. And I know that in Kingston, as in the distant parishes of this country, my remarks will be greeted by vigorous, vociferous and profound approval.
Your extraordinary continuous and uninterrupted service at the helm of this country for the past fourteen years must be admired, and lauded. With the dignity and dedication befitting a patriot, you have devoted your most energetic years and the major part of your life to serving Jamaica. Prior to that you have held various portfolios and discharged many functions in the interest of this land. I am sure that in the process, you have known dark nights and awaited dawn, always looking for the star of hope. You are not known for being dispassionate when Jamaica’s welfare is at stake and when her future appears threatened.
Unknown to most, you have given yourself quietly to and for Jamaica. Whether at the Commonwealth, the ACP, the United Nations, in bilateral negotiations, or in the halls of the international financial institutions, you have admirably and convincingly advanced the cause of our people, the interests of our Region and of developing countries as a whole.
You stand as an embodiment of selfless service, reminding us all that the joys of personal sacrifice exceed the pleasures of selfish gratifications and ambitions; persuading us that the comparatively meager financial rewards for public service are always compensated for by the satisfaction of playing one’s part well on the stage of life; and challenging all Jamaicans to politics of elevation, to a search for accommodation, in short, towards the emergence of a new political order.
At the close of your watch, you are leaving your successor an economy that is adapting and transforming itself in order to minimize the dislocations that globalisation distributes without discrimination, while at the same time seeking to maximize the opportunities that might present themselves.
As you today reflect with satisfaction at the distance we have traveled during the years that you were at the helm of this country, there must be a sense of satisfaction and pride that you have played your part effectively and well. And yet, if I hear the silent beating in your breast, it must be the regret that all your desires and noble intentions have not been all realized. I exhort you to take courage at the fact that the mantle is passing to none more deserving than your successor.
Retiring Prime Minister, I am privileged to know the great esteem in which you are held by your colleagues in the Caribbean Community. That you are the doyen of CARICOM leaders is undeniable; that you exerted the wisdom that emerges from a long and fruitful service to the Region is evident. The Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community have publicly lauded your contributions to the Caribbean integration movement.
It must be remembered that you were there at the birth of the Caribbean Community and quite fittingly, and as just recompense for your yeoman service to our Region, you are leaving at the juncture when the greatest progress towards regional integration has been consummated in the establishment of the Caribbean Single Market and the work in progress towards achievement of the CARICOM Single Economy. As a committed integrationist, this must fill you with great satisfaction.
If service to people is the highest attainable good, then service to one’s nation yields the highest satisfaction. On behalf of all Jamaicans, I thank you for the many years of meritorious service rendered to this nation.
I am sure that you could have sought and would have had exceptional success in any field of endeavour, but, you elected to devote a lifetime of service to the Jamaican people. You are deserving of the respect and admiration of this nation and it must neither be delayed nor denied. May God be pleased to grant you e deserved blessings.
TRANSITION OF LEADERSHIP
The orderly transfer of the mantle of leadership is a hallmark of an organisation that is durable and dynamic: The peaceful transfer of power, witnessed here today, identifies Jamaica as a nation that has matured both politically and constitutionally.
Let me observe that in the community of nations there are many moribund and shipwrecked situations. Madam Prime Minister,yours will most certainly be a course that preserves the gains of the past and expands these gains so that the poor and dispossessed among us may be brought into the ambit of economic prosperity.
THE CHALLENGES
Madam Prime Minister, our society is beset by various challenges and new and incipient negative developments threaten its fabric. In the interest of our stability and progress, and in order to ensure that Jamaica remains a vibrant member of the international community in this age of globalisation, we must urgently find solutions for these challenges.
The hopeful and the hopeless turn eyes of expectancy towards you, waiting to be infused with new hope and energy and to be provided with the necessities to transform their situation. The task may be formidable but the mission is not hopeless and impossible. Our people are resourceful. They must not want, and do not expect, governments to undertake what are rightly their responsibilities. Instead, they need their governments to create the environment in which they can display their inherent creativity, and carve their own futures.
This is not a fanciful view or untested assumption. Unobserved, manifold life-challenges are valiantly overcome daily in towns and hamlets across this country; unseen and unreported, neighbourly love flourishes and blossoms; and the safety cordons of care formed in neighbourhoods function to increase the life-chances of children and young people. These dynamic and hopeful occurrences have never been quenched by growing selfishness and will never be extinguished in our land.
We must affirm in speech and confirm in practice that disagreements need not breed conflict and enmity; that being victor does not require victims; that the collective good may be placed above partisan concerns; that compromise and consideration are indeed virtues that characterize civilised behaviour of men and women and are not symbols of weakness. The contention of ideas in the market place of public opinion must result in the enlargement of options and alternatives and the stimulation of reasoning and change. When such occur, we as a nation are on the way towards acquiring the mental and attitudinal skills that are vital to success in global economic transitions.
THE HONOUR AND THE BURDEN
Madam Prime Minister, the political constituencies of your Party have expressed their choice in you. But today, the oath of office obligates you to all of Jamaica. You have this morning left the confines of your political party and assumed the leadership of the entire nation. Standing in the place of leadership, the nation will look to you for the compassion that lends a hand to those impoverished and vanquished by unkind circumstances; and consideration for those awaiting the tide of prosperity.
As you well know, the honour and privilege to serve your country in this high office is accompanied by the burdens of leadership. It is my hope that the goodwill expressed by all Jamaicans will attend you in periods of difficulties that you are sure to meet.
CONCLUSION
I now join with Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora and indeed, with my brothers and sisters in the Commonwealth Caribbean, in expressing heartfelt congratulations to you on your elevation to this high office. You are now the symbol of hope for the many with noble expectations. To those awaiting development and change in their conditions, you are the personification of their aspirations.
May your personal confidence in God sustain you always. May you govern wisely and in the interest of all.