Being consumed with ambition to see my Island In the Sun great, I am deeply troubled at the efforts; wondering with all the traveling that our selected government officials do to most of the best run countries in the world, why is it that they don’t adopt the best practices they see and use them here for the benefit of the people and country? Is Jamaica shortchanged? It is so disturbing that I have embarked on an appraisal of our government since 1962, and though I will not delve deeply into them for research purposes, at a glance we can see -if we care or dare to look- the results of their efforts; and it is by their deeds that we shall know them, even as we bear in mind factors that would have impacted negatively on the tenure of any one of them, preventing them from fulfilling the mission for those who had a mission.
In a surprising post-Independence Election, the cunning Alexander Bustamante triumphed over the erudite, progressive Norman Manley to become Jamaica’s first Prime Minister (1962 – 1967). His tenure would be marked by controversy involving the persecution of members of the Rastafarian community. He was known for Trade Union Activism, but he was not the Founder of the BITU though it bears his name. Whatever economic success attributed to this period is a holdover from the Colonial government systems that had us attached to Britain, and did not impact meaningfully the lives of the masses of the people. Social and economic conditions were dreadful for them, to say the least….
Donald Sangster, (1967-1967) ascended to office thereafter, and met his untimely, suspicious and mysterious end. He failed to get off the ground as he had less than two months in office. Hugh Lawson Shearer followed (1967-1972), and was also noted for Union Activism more than anything else before making way for Michael Manley, (1972-1980), who set about the arduous and unpopular task of raising up the masses from off the ground, and the grand transformation of the Jamaican society. His achievements are unquestioned, irrefutable and remarkable, especially when it was realized in the face of fierce opposition from the JLP, the Robber Barons along with the children of the slave owners, who controlled most of the wealth of the country, and the US government. It would take an entire article to outline his accomplishments; and no fair attempt to define his tenure can be made without looking at the formidable opposition he faced. The unique thing about Mr. Manley was that he became PM twice, again from (1989-1992).
Next in line was Edward Seaga, (1980-1989), who was a noted opponent and antagonist of Mr. Manley’s government. His rise to office was turbulent, and his tenure marked by Constituency organization, and Cultural Development. Regarded as the ‘best’ Finance Minister Jamaica has ever had, we are still hard-pressed to find where had that economic and social impact on the masses to improve their lives. For all he did, it was not nearly enough since he had a relatively free hand and the support of the enemies of progress for the masses to accomplish what he wanted. Mr. Manley’s Second Coming, following on the heels of the reign of Mr. Seaga was less remarkable due to illness, and a decision to cease ‘tearing down the walls of Babylon’, which is the major hindrance to the progress and prosperity of the Island.
Illness mostly conspired against Mr. Manley, and this, coupled with good fortunes for some, saw the return of Percival James Patterson to the fold of the PNP, which set the stage for his ascendancy to the Top Job of Prime Minister, (1992-1996).
His tenure would be marked by the modernization and infrastructure development of Jamaica. Known to have never lost an Election, and the longest serving Prime Minister, his administration missed many glorious opportunities where he could have been the greatest to date, but that eluded him even as his tenure became pock marked with scandals and accusations of corruption.
Father time, and perhaps a feeling of not wanting to ‘overstay’ and risk an unblemished record of 4 Election victories, he stepped down to make way for the ultimate rise of Portia Lucretia Simpson-Miller, who subsequently became Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister, serving the first inherited term from March 2006 to September 2007. She lost her first contested Election to Bruce Golding. There is not much of note to brag about during this short period, so we move on.
Bruce Golding, Jamaica’s 8th Prime Minister, (2007- 2011) defied the odds, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat by unseating the far more popular Mrs. Simpson-Miller to take up residence at Jamaica House. His reign, which promised much, would be short-lived as it went down in a blaze of inglorious misfortune wrapped in the controversy of the Dudus debacle. He borrowed heavily from the Socialist planks of Mr. Manley’s, giving the people Free Health Care, and Education, to a certain extent. Before crashing out of office, the nation hung its hopes on him, especially when they saw how he took a pay cut, and imposed one on the members of his government, drove a car until it broke down instead of spending lavishly for a new one, and just seem to be a radical shift from the JLP of the past, which presided over a government for the rich though it talked loudly about defending the poor. His missteps on the West Kingston and Dudus saga forced him to resign, and make way for the rise of Andrew Michael Holness.
Having been handed the leadership of the JLP and the office of PM by Mr. Golding, his went on to become the second shortest stint in office, losing the General Elections to Mrs. Simpson-Miller, who rose under her own mandate (2012-2016) before losing the last General Elections to the Second Coming of Andrew Holness.
Mrs. Simpson-Miller’s reign saw a steadying of the ship as it wended its way through turbulent financial waters. However, apparent divisiveness, arrogance, controversy and the likes, dogged the PNP and spilled over into government. There isn’t much else to write home about, and a lot of hope hanging on for the Second Term was dashed against a green stone promising prosperity.
Here we are today under the leadership of the ‘young’, green Andrew Holness waiting for the Jamaican ship to come in.
As noted, they all made contributions to the Jamaican society, but having to mark hard by credible world standards, they mostly failed to bring the Island where it ought to be; and none of them sought to make the kind of sacrifices that Michael Manley attempted to truly move the nation forward during his first tenure. Now we are a nation wallowing in blood and poor economic and social problems.
They all had opportunities, and good examples to follow to make Jamaica the kind of Island it has the potential to become. The causes of failure are probably as innumerable as the sands on our shores, but there is knowledge that better can and should be done to bring about the desirable changes to the nation.
I am Warren Johnson
Editor at Large, Mckoy’s News: the views expressed on this post are that of the writer and not that of Mckoy’s News.