Today the voters of Jamaica went to the polls to choose the 60 representatives from whom the next government will be formed. However perplexing some may find the results, the fact is, the people have spoken and we of the Jamaica Labour Party, accept and respect the decision of the people of Jamaica.
The result of the election as indicated preliminarily by the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ), indicates that the Jamaica Labour Party won 31 seats and the People's National Party 29.
There are a number of seats that were won by very narrow majorities. Indeed, on the preliminary count communicated and advised by the Electoral Office of Jamaica, there are three seats which were lost by the Jamaica Labour Party by less than 100 votes.
Those seats as well as others are going to be the subject of recount and therefore the final tally of seats between the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party will have to await the conduct of those recounts and a final determination by the Director of Elections. As it exists at the moment, the Jamaica Labour Party commands a majority of the seats in the House of Parliament.
I want to make it clear that the narrowness of this result poses significant challenges, not just for me and not just for the team that I lead, but indeed for the country.
I know that supporters of the party are in a celebratory mood because the last time we felt this way would have been twenty-seven years ago in 1980. But I want to suggest to you that while no one begrudges your cause of celebration, it is more a time for engagement. It may very well be that the people of Jamaica, in their own profound wisdom, are sending a clear message to all of us that the time has come for constructive engagement among the political forces of the country.
I had hoped that before I came here to address you, I would have had a conversation with the Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller.
Regrettably, that conversation has not taken place. Regardless of what was the margin of victory, I had planned to indicate that under my leadership and under a government that I would lead, we would seek to establish a new framework that would seek to establish inclusiveness in the relationship between the Government and the Opposition.
I say that because we make a mistake if we believe that a party becoming government, no matter how large its majority, is going to be able to take this country forward as fast as this country needs to go, if it does so on its own steam without the co-operation of all the people of Jamaica. To the extent that the People's National Party represents a significant body of support in the country, it is important in going forward, for there to be a serious programme, a new a paradigm of constructive engagement.
Capacity of our Democracy
I regret that we, perhaps, will have to wait until the final determination is made as to the results of those seats that were narrowly won or lost before we are going to be able to embark on that important initiative.
It has been a long campaign. It's been a long election period and I want to give thanks this evening that in most constituencies the elections were held peacefully and orderly. That demonstrates the remarkable capacity of our democracy to effect change and to facilitate the transition of power in an orderly and constructive way.
We must deeply regret that there are a few constituencies where that was not so. There are a few constituencies that were plagued by violence and all of us must express our profound sympathies to the families of those who were killed in circumstances that suggest that the killing of those persons was politically motivated.
Ending Political Violence
It is a reminder to us that there is much more work that we still have to do. We have come a long way from the polarisation of the past and the violence that attended that, but there is still much more work that we need to do and both parties, the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party, must recommit themselves to doing everything that is possible and doing it sincerely, to rid the country of the culture of political violence.
In spite of all of this, we must give God thanks for the mercies that He showed to us during this campaign and I thank God personally for making it possible for me to lead this country into the future.
There are enormous challenges that face us; challenges that are going to have to be confronted and I know that I can't even walk without Him holding my hand. This evening I ask you, and indeed, I ask the people of Jamaica, to join me in praying God's blessing, in praying God's guidance on all of us; on the new government that I hope to lead and on the country that will look to me for leadership over the next five years.
I want to thank the Jamaican people for the support that they have given us. On the preliminary count we not only won a majority of the seats but we won a majority of the votes, although a small majority, but it is a reflection of the support that the people gave us and I want to thank them for that.
The majority of the people of Jamaica have placed their trust in us. We must honour that trust. We must never betray that trust.
Engagement with the Process
I want as well to thank all those who came out and voted today irrespective of which party or which candidate they voted for. I want to thank them because they represent an engagement with the process that is important if our democracy is to continue to enjoy legitimacy.
I want to thank as well the members of the organisation that I lead. I want to thank the constituency workers, the polling division workers, the supervisors, the cluster managers. I want to thank the national campaign team. I want to thank the General Secretary and the team that he led, the national campaign manager, the campaign specialist. I want to thank all the many other functionaries. I want to thank the staff of our headquarters, as indeed the staff of our constituency offices across the island and I want to thank the army of volunteers who have worked with us during this campaign. All of you constitute a first class team and you have performed well in this election and I am proud to be your leader.
I want as well to thank the electoral officials, the EOJ and all of the officials who worked with them. I want to thank the election observers, both local and overseas. I want to thank the security forces for the tremendous work that they have done – the way in which they withstood the stress that I know this campaign and this election placed them under.
I want to thank the media for the coverage that they have given. Even when media reports and commentaries may have been unkind to us, we must always respect their independence, their right to comment as they see fit and we must be prepared to examine even critical comments they make of us, because we are not perfect and the media can help us to get closer to perfection than we are.
I want to congratulate those candidates who have won, all of those candidates who have won, not just the candidates of the Jamaica Labour Party. I want to say to all of them, we have earned the people's trust, let us now set about doing the people's work. That is what they have put us there to do and that is what we must commit ourselves to doing.
I have spoken with a number of the candidates of my party who were unsuccessful and I have told them that I know the disappointment that they feel. I know how hard they have worked, but I want to say to them that this victory, as tenuous as it might be, is as much their victory as ours because they were part of the team that worked to get us this far.
To the JLP supporters, bear in mind the significant challenges that face me and face your party at this time. Therefore, I won't deny you any celebration that you may feel inclined to indulge in, but I want to request of you, indeed I want to instruct you, that in whatever celebration you engage in, do so in moderation, do so with dignity, do so with magnanimity, because that is the platform that we have to build for the way that we are going to have to proceed in the future.
I want you to reach out to the supporters of the People's National Party because it has been my conviction – it is part of the principles that underpin the quality of leadership that I offer the country – that the government that I intend to lead must be a government not just of Jamaica Labour Party supporters, but People's National Party supporters must be part of that firmament, they have to be part of the scheme of things.
We can't row the boat of the nation with only one set of people doing the rowing. We need everybody on board and therefore, I want you to be respectful to them in your celebrations. Don't gloat, and in your celebration be respectful to the members of the People's National Party.
If it is your inclination in the way you celebrate, to have a drink then don't have anymore than you can handle and while you are having a drink, offer the comrade next to you a drink as well. That is the kind of Jamaica that I want to build.
One of the things that we need to understand, whether the margin of victory was two seats or whether it was 20 seats, if we are to make our way into the future, we must be one people, one nation, one Jamaica.
It has been a long day. It has been a long campaign, and it is time for us to go home and get some rest and get back to work tomorrow. I want to thank you. I want to thank Jamaica. They may have designed the results of this election for a specific purpose and we must not be unmindful of the challenge that the people of Jamaica may have found it necessary to place before us.
I thank all of you. God bless Jamaica. God bless the people of Jamaica.