I’ve been trying to get a question answered all week, to no avail. Why isn’t Andrew Holness immediately sworn in as Prime Minister?
Per our constitution, the Prime Minister is not directly elected. He is simply the majority choice of the duly elected Members of Parliament. So, since our PM is stepping down, the sitting MPs just need to meet and pick a new person. They tell the Governor General who the choice is, and she/he becomes PM.
Leadership of Country and Party Not the Same
Instead, it looks like there is about to be a massive waste of time in Jamaica. Time is now going to be wasted as Jamaica waits for a JLP party conference to first designate a Party Leader, who will then be de facto PM. That is certainly backwards!
Jamaica doesn’t have that kind of money or time to waste on the involvement of the Electoral Commission and the Constabulary Force in the JLP’s internal party activities.
The current PM is toying with the Constitution by effectively allowing his party’s delegates to pick Jamaica’s new leader. This is a travesty. If the JLP decides to select the new PM (per Parliament’s choice) as leader in their party private activities, then they are free to do so. The announced course is clearly out of order.
Modern (Flawed) Election Strategy
MP Chris Tufton and Senator Mahaloo-Forte, on separate Wenesday evening TV programs, presented similar arguments for Andrew Holness as JLP Leader. It seemed to me that Holness as PM was an afterthought.
What I heard last night was ominously familiar. This sounds just like the designation of PNP MP Portia Simpson as Prime Minister in 2006 all over again. Just win the elections, man – we can decide on policy and national strategy later.
Mr. Tufton, sounding quite Prime Ministerial himself, made his case in this way, and I paraphrase heavily:
(1) To continue current policy, the JLP needs to win the next election.
(2) To win the election, the JLP base and donors (as well a few of the rest of us Jamaicans) need to be motivated to vote.
(3) To motivate electors, the JLP needs to put forward a popular candidate.
(4) In the search for a popular candidate, Andrew Holness emerged as a frontrunner per internal agreement, and per limited street polling.
Thus, the party will nominate Mr. Holness as JLP Leader at their internal, private conference next month. On TV, Mr. Tufton threw down the guantlet to the PNP. Can match up the JLP’s shiny new trump card, Mr. Holness as Leader?
No Public Examination?
I couldn’t care less about who the members of the JLP select to lead themselves. That is their business. However, things become much more serious when a person is presented to be the Prime Minister of my country. In that capacity, what am I, a Citizen, to make of Mr. Holness?
Disappointingly, there has been no real investigative assessment in the press of Mr. Holness’ tenure as Minister of Education. From all indications, much has happened under his watch, and it would be good to learn more about his achievements and challenges there.
Similarly, there has not been much analysis of his work as Member of Parliament for West Central St. Andrew. TVJ and CVM-TV both visited his constituency for feedback from citizens. I do not want to base my assessment of his performance as MP on their reports, but I was dismayed at what I saw on screen.
‘Youth on the Move Worldwide’
In the media discussion about Mr. Holness, many comparative references have been made to US President Barack Obama. I have seen Mr. Obama struggle against entrenched politicians in his party and the opposition Republicans.
In the US system of Government, Mr. Obama cannot ride slipshod over Congress to get things done his way. He must negotiate with Democrats and Republicans, highly sensitive to the opinions of the people they represent, to get things done. This has been painfully obvious to the US President and his frustrated supporters.
Jamaica’s winner-take-all Westminister system is a different animal. The JLP is quite justified in pushing for victory – once they are in the majority, there are no real checks against their policies and agenda. The PNP, of course, wants the same thing to achieve their own objectives.
Mr. Holness as PM will have virtually unlimited power in Jamaica. Even though he won’t really need to, I would hope to see some evidence that he can temper his approach and work with opposing MPs on national issues. Again, such evidence has not been presented, to my knowledge.
What will Mr. Holness do when faced with roadblocks to his agenda put up by members of his own party? It would be encouraging to hear about instances of fortitude when he has had faced down Members who were determined not to move his way.
In the real world, the watchdog of our freedoms, the Press, is more excited about the sexier topics of personalities, polls and elections. We’ll worry about policy and professional history later, after the elections.
Stop wasting Jamaica’s Time
Why is Bruce Golding even allowed to pick a date on which he leaves Jamaica House? By law, if he no longer has the confidence of the majority of the sittings MPs, then he has no right to be Prime Minister. The Governer General should have intervened by now to get the new PM decided on and sworn in. That is his lawful duty.
As the PM and PM Designate (a silly, totally unnecessary term) gallivant along until the big JLP hurrah in November, what of Jamaica?
What happens if major decisions impacting Jamaicva’s future need to be made immediately? The JLP may argue that Mr. Holness is already part of the Cabinet and so would be a party to all such decisions. (However, that line of reasoning would open up lines of attack in which the PNP can tie Holness to all of Golding’s decisions.)
Get Going, Man!
The JLP, and the media, are treating the selection of a PM as a massive affair of State. By our Constitution, the PM is not head of state – Jamaica still has a pesky entanglement with the British Queen, represented by the Governor General.
I, a Citizen, demand that Parliament’s House of Representives (the rightful body) get together immediately to select a Prime Minister. That person goes to knock on the GG’s door, presents himself for swearing in and, baps, wi done.
For God’s sake, for Jamaica’s sake, get on with it. It ought to be a very simple process.
That’s the law.
From a Citizen.