Portia resigning as PNP leader
Another era in Jamaica’s politics will come to an end next year, when Portia Simpson Miller leader of that nation’s opposition People’s National Party (PNP) hand over the baton of leadership of the 75 year-old party.
Simpson-Miller, Jamaica’s first female and former two-term Prime-Minister, on Sunday announced her decision not to seek re-election when the party holds its elections in September, 2017.
Simpson Miller, who celebrates her 71st birthday later this month, has been under constant pressure to step down after leading the then ruling PNP into defeat in the February 25 General Election. Then on November 28, she led the party into its second defeat to the ruling Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) in Local Government Elections.
Responding to criticisms to why she didn’t resign after the General Elections, Simpson-Miller said she didn’t want a new leader to commence their term with an election loss. “I wanted to give that person a clean slate on which to build.”
Simpson Miller said she has given over 40 years of selfless and dedicated service to “this great party and country. I have been through some tough battles for this party. I have witnessed many Comrades fall.”
She said she has been reflecting on what the past 10 years have meant. “It has been quite a journey. We have been in Government and in Opposition. In 2012 we had a landslide victory and led a four-year period of some of the most fundamental strides to set the Jamaican economy on the right track. Now we are back in Opposition by the slimmest margin ever. What decade it has been!”
Despite calls for Simson Miller to resign after the General Election loss, she was overwhelmingly returned as PNP president at the party’s annual conference last September. She easily dispatched the challenge of party colleague Dr. Karl Blythe. Referring to that election, Simpson Miller said, “I am proud and happy about the strong endorsement given to me by the party delegates in September. To receive 93 percent of the votes is indeed an overwhelming endorsement. However, there comes a time when one must assess their political future.”
She told the delegates she wants the transition to a new leader to be seamless. “I will lead the officers to establish clear guidelines and a period for campaigning. There will be sanctions and a ban on public advertisements. Any action by candidates and their supporters to tarnish other Comrades or bring the party into disrepute will be met with sanctions.”
The day following her announcement of retiring former Minister of Finance in the last PNP administration, Dr. Peter Phillips announced his candidacy for party leader. So did former Minister of National Security Peter Bunting. This will Phillips third attempt to secure the PNP leadership. He was defeated by Simpson Miller on his two previous attempts.
Newly elected PNP general secretary Julian Robinson who was touted by some PNP supporters as a potential party president says he’s not a contender as he focuses on his new role as general secretary. However, there are speculations former Tourism Minister Dr. Wykeham McNeil could join the leadership race.
Simpson Miller warned “those who want leadership must remember the PNP is bigger than all of us. If we cannot put the party before personal ambitions, we do not deserve to lead this movement.”
Although Simpson Miller said she’ll not seek reelection at the party’s September 2017 conference, there are indications the party could call election for the new leader by March 2017.