JIS News

In about four weeks, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson will demit office as head of government and hand over the reigns of leadership to Local Government, Community Development and Sport Minister, Portia Simpson Miller.
As Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman tells JIS News, the transition process to Mrs. Simpson Miller becoming the nation’s seventh and first female Prime Minister, will firstly entail the formal resignation of Mr. Patterson, by way of letter to the Governor-General. The resignation date will be decided on by both Mr. Patterson and Mrs. Simpson Miller.
“He will also at the same time, resign as President of the People’s National Party (PNP). When he resigns as Prime Minister of Jamaica, there is no longer a Cabinet in place, at that point, the new PM, having been sworn in, will have to form a Cabinet. That is expected immediately, so that there is no gap between the end of the service of the Patterson Cabinet and the start of the service of the Simpson Miller Cabinet,” he says.
Senator Whiteman notes that the selection process for the new Cabinet was entirely up to the new Prime Minister. “She will, using her best judgement, decide upon the size of the Cabinet, the members of the Cabinet, and make the call,” he says, noting that it was however “customary that a Prime Minister consult with those whom he or she wishes to appoint and the final appointment is something which is mutually arrived at”.
Turning to the boards of the various public sector agencies and how they will be affected, the Information Minister informs that such boards are not required to do anything at this stage. “Once the Cabinet that now exists ceases to function, and a new Cabinet is in place, it is for that Cabinet and the Prime Minister to decide whether the boards that are in place should continue, whether some of them or all of them would be expected to offer their resignation or whether the Cabinet wishes to revoke their appointment”.
He points out that the appointment of boards is a ministerial activity, “usually with the knowledge and approval of the Cabinet and certainly with the knowledge and support of the Prime Minister, so there would be a decision and it might not be the same decision in the case of all Ministers, or in the case of all boards – there will be a decision as to whether boards stay until the end of their current life, which might be a few months away, or whether they resign and lead the way for a new board to be appointed.” All of this, he emphasizes, will occur after the new Prime Minister has appointed her Cabinet.
As for Senators, he explains, they “do not hold the office of Senate or the position of Senator by virtue of the shape of or the existence of a Cabinet”.
Although Senators usually hold office until the government itself changes by way of a general election, they may choose to offer their resignation, “should it be thought necessary or advisable when a new Prime Minister is appointed”.
He further explains that Senators, who were members of the Cabinet, will not retain their Cabinet position while they remained as Senators, unless the Prime Minister wishes them to do so. Noting that presently, there are two Ministers in the Cabinet, who were in the Senate, he says they may remain as Senators if they chose not to resign, but they wouldn’t necessarily hold office as members of the Cabinet of the new Prime Minister.
As provided for in Section 69 of the Constitution, the Cabinet should consist of no fewer than 11 persons. Also, no less than two or more than four members of the Cabinet may be drawn from the Senate. The current Cabinet has 16 members in addition to the Prime Minister.
Turning to the role of the Governor-General in the appointment of the new Prime Minister, Senator Whiteman explains that the Governor-General will appoint to that office, “the person who in his judgement will command the support of the majority of the Members of Parliament”.
In this case, the Information Minister says, “it is very clear from all that has happened over the last few days, that the government members of the House of Representatives have declared that the person who will enjoy the support of them all is the Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, so then the Governor-General would by virtue of the Constitution now appoint her as the Prime Minister.”