There is a growing unease in the air. I thought it was just me, but it’s not. I have been calling in my Sunday blogs for some word, but… Why aren’t we hearing from our political leaders? Why are they so quiet? OK, we have got over the Olympics, and Jamaica 50, and it was all wonderful. But now… What? We are back to business. What business?
Where are we? Who are we? Where are we heading?
Can we hear from someone? From the Finance Minister perhaps, on the state of our economy – the little signs I have seen are rather worrying? I know you are talking to the IMF soon. What are the parameters of those discussions? Any thoughts, hopes, plans, strategies? Why is the Jamaican Dollar sliding to J$90/US$1? What about food security – what actual concrete steps are being taken to deal with this? Food prices are going to soar. Gas prices already soaring…
As for the National Security Minister, who was SO vocal during the election campaign? Why has he not spoken on the escalating number of murders? I KNOW they are escalating because I have been keeping track of them, listing the sad names at the end of each Sunday blog. The numbers are increasing every week. Could he (or the silent Police Commissioner) say something about the woman who was allegedly shot dead by the police in Yallahs, St. Thomas? Eight months pregnant, an almost fully-formed child in her belly – two Jamaicans dead? And if not the death of a humble rural woman, then why not an expression of concern and condolences to the more high-profile Clover Graham and Dr. Barrington Dixon, two much loved and well-respected Jamaicans who served their countrymen and women with distinction and with love, in their own fields. Why not a statement – or better still, a visit down to Yallahs?
Now to our Prime Minister – and I have mentioned before, “Prime” means “first”, and “Minister” means “servant.” She is our Top Servant. How is she serving us? OK, we know she went to Trinidad and Tobago. Fine, it was their 50th anniversary too. But she is not visible. We are not seeing her. We are not hearing her. Journalists lie in wait, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. As I mentioned before, CVM TV’s intrepid Andrew Cannon waylaid her recently outside Parliament and she said that she does not interfere with what her ministers’ work – that’s what she appointed them for. As I said before, is this “hands off” governance, on autopilot? I don’t know what to say. I never expected this.
My social media friends, old and young, are becoming increasingly critical. One called the Prime Minister our “Avatar.” In computer terms, an avatar is “the graphical representation of the user or the user’s alter ego or character.” There is a new hashtag on Twitter: #whereisPortia. And talk show hosts are beginning to wonder out loud.
A song I loved so much was “Wide Awake in a Dream.” A line in the song by Alton Ellis (and Barry Biggs) goes: “I can’t believe you are real…” Are we all wide awake in a dream?
I have posted this blog post from a fellow blogger, Cucumber Juice – heartfelt, and it simply echoes my feelings. This is painful, and this is sad. Thanks for allowing me to post this, CCJ!
Yes it works to the tune of the Carmen Sandiego game show song, just dip your voice on the “Simpson.”
So, where is Prime Minister Simpson-Miller?
I wonder for a few reasons…and I gather that I am not alone in wondering.
The last I saw of her was at the Jamaica 50 Grand Gala. She looked regal and happy. That’s nice. Before that I saw her gleefully waving in London as our athletes trooped into the stadium. Super. During this past weekend I saw a picture of her and Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at that country’s 50th Independence celebrations. Yay, Caribbean unity. A few weeks ago the Prime Minister received an honorary degree from Northern Caribbean University but I didn’t see any footage of her acceptance speech (pardon me if I missed it). Congrats to her…an opportunity for a speech about policy or the state of the country. Alas, missed. And, to be honest, an acceptance speech from a University is not what I’m looking for. Nor am I looking for the obligatory Emancipation and Independence messages.
I am looking for leadership…leadership that Jamaica desperately needs at the moment.
On the heels of the death of Prime Minister Meles from Ethiopia, Prime Minister Simpson-Miller’s absence from public life really struck me. And before Meles there was President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi who died around April 7, 2012 (succeeded by Joyce Banda) and President John Atta Mills of Ghana who died on July 24, 2012 (succeeded by John Mahama). So, I wondered even more. Where is Jamaican Prime Minister Simpson-Miller? Because it is now an open secret that the Prime Minister is unwell (it was apparent to me during the campaigning before the December 2011 election and recent images of her, to me, show more than age and private conversations confirm that she’s not well). Moreover, this kind of absence is not what I’m accustomed to from Portia Lucretia Simpson-Miller. I wonder if we – resident and Diaspora Jamaicans – need to begin a watch for her…as was done with the late Prime Minister Meles. The transitions for these countries were not all smooth but they were far less bumpy than in the past, which has become a source of pride for the citizens and supporters of those countries. Jamaica had occasion for such a transition too when Donald Sangster died in office and was succeeded by Hugh Shearer. More recently the resignation of Bruce Golding led to the election of Andrew Holness as JLP leader and swearing in as Jamaican Prime Minister. But I am less concerned about the transition process than I am with the the available options, should such a transition become necessary, because I’m far more concerned with the leadership vacuum in Jamaica. As someone on my timeline (@gocharms) commented this morning: Jamaica is on autopilot.
I can certainly understand that if the Prime Minister is indeed ill she may wish to remain private about the nature of her illness and that she should be afforded some privacy. I sympathize with her because it must be difficult. Yet she’s not just any ol’ public official; she really doesn’t have the luxury of this depth of silence. Like it or not, it’s the cost of being an elected official who is also the leader of a country. Surely we don’t need or require details of a treatment schedule or her medical history but the country at least deserves to know what plans are in place as she deals with treatment to ensure that the country has appropriate and competent leadership. But that is if she’s indeed ill. Regardless of the state of her health, the current state of Jamaican leadership is unacceptable. Jamaica is at a fragile place…the uncertainty does not help that position.
I am looking for leadership. Leadership that Jamaica desperately needs at the moment.
I am looking for leadership that would have capitalized on the Olympic fever and our athletes’ success. Such domination by a small country in the capital of the place that colonized us is surely not only a golden PR moment, but also a prime opportunity to harness the energy and focus of the country — then on the athletes’ hard work, execution, and the achievement — to tackle bigger issues that also require planning, hard work, and execution. It could have been a start, a teachable moment of sorts. There was much chatter about getting a holiday in celebration. Yet instead of a speech either to congratulate the athletes and to announce a holiday or to congratulate the athletes and to announce that now is not the time for a break, now is the time to push on, to work hard following the examples of our athletes…we get silence. Where is the passionate, effervescent Prime Minister Simpson-Miller who despite her perceived “intellectual gaps” is adept at whipping up and galvanizing a crowd? Why was that skill not on display immediately after or during Olympic fever to at least try to maintain the unity? There was a spirit in Jamaica and among Jamaicans that begged for use in a continuous and positive way. Alas. More importantly, where is the Prime Minister to provide leadership about the hoped-for IMF agreement and all the usual “bitter medicine” that it will require? To explain what it will mean for all strata of society? We can surely guess but that’s besides the point; where is the elected leader to…lead? To explain and reassure as public sector jobs are cut (it was announced recently that 3,000 jobs would be cut and I expect more of that…it would be foolish of anyone to expect otherwise)? To provide some sort of rationale for why the government needs consultants and why those consultants are being paid so much? Where is the leadership to prepare the nation for what could happen when Hugo Chavez, another leader with (apparently) failing health and possibly untenable popularity and support, is no longer leader and that PetroCaribe deal is on shaky ground? Another person on my timeline (@Tyrone876) labeled the lack of discussion about and preparation for such a scenario and the same for the possibility that an IMF deal is notforthcoming a “crisis.” Seems apt. Where is the leadership to explain (or SOMETHING!) about the value of the U.S. dollar (now almost JA$90 : US$1 and about the Canadian dollar, which is now over JA$90 : CDN$1?
I am looking for leadership. Leadership that Jamaica desperately needs at the moment.
Where is Prime Minister Simpson-Miller to speak up about the kidnapping and murder of Clover Graham? Where is Prime Minister Simpson-Miller to speak up about the murder of Dr. Barry Dixon? Where is Prime Minister Simpson-Miller to speak up about the killing of Kayann Lamont and her child by the police? At this point I may even be OK with her going to Yallahs and hugging up Ms. Lamont’s parents, sisters, grandmother, and children. OK…not really, more is needed…but where is even the smallest indication that Jamaica has an elected Prime Minister who is actually trading on her self-professed love of country and of poor people to provide some comfort and empathy in a very troubling and grief-filled time?
Some will say, “Well, what do you expect of Prime Minister Simpson-Miller because she was, after all, not fit for the job of in the first place.” This may be true but the fact is that she was elected to lead and she’s not doing so. Where are the surrogates, then, the senior leadership of the PNP and GOJ to provide a steadying message and hand? Fact is, no one in her cabinet is stepping up so the leadership vacuum is even more severe. I saw more of and heard more from Finance Minister Peter Phillips during the Manatt Mendacity than I do now…now when he’s actually in a position of responsibility and trust. Funny how that works, eh? Not much from Peter Bunting who really should be saying and being more proactive about the growing crime and scamming problem that is his responsibility as Minister of National Security. I wonder if he knows that the constant statements about the crime rate being down don’t match up either with the frequent reports of murders, kidnappings and robberies or with the persistent use of excessive force by the Jamaican police? Minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining (*grimace*) seems to be beating at JPS’ door yet nothing much is being said about PetroCaribe. One measly comment that you’re hopeful of a Chavez victory because Jamaica cannot afford to lose the deal (likely if Chavez loses, which is distinctly likely) is not sufficient, sir.
Where is Jamaica’s elected leader to set the tone and present a narrative that seeks – at least – to reassure the country’s citizens about Jamaica’s ability to cope, but ideally a tone and narrative meant to gather support for a clearly defined plan for the obviously rough road ahead? A plan to which GOJ can and should be held accountable? Where is the honesty and frank discussion?
Jamaica needs leadership.
Where is the leadership to explain just exactly what mission Jamaica is on and how the country will get there? Because at the moment Jamaica is on an auto-piloted mission to God knows where and I’m not sure even He knows how we’ll be getting there.
Where is Prime Minister Simpson-Miller and, most important, what are Jamaicans going to do about it?
- Jamaica at 50: Island Nation’s P.M. Talks About the Queen, the Caribbean and Usain Bolt (repeatingislands.com)
- 50-50 Reflections (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Newly elected Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller a strong advocate for gay rights (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Jamaica revels in Olympic glory (bbc.co.uk)