On this day in Caribbean history, December 12, 1945, Portia Simpson Miller, leader of the Opposition People’s National Party and Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister was born.
The Most Honourable Portia Lucretia Simpson Miller O.N., M.P. became Jamaica’s seventh Prime Minister in March 2006 and was conferred with the Order of the Nation in May 2006.
Mrs. Simpson Miller’s ascension to Jamaica’s highest political office, came after having served for 17 years as a Cabinet Minister with portfolio responsibility for Labour, Social Security and Sport; Tourism, Entertainment and Sport; and Local Government, Community Development and Sport. Mrs. Simpson Miller has also had portfolio responsibilities for Women’s Affairs,
Mrs. Simpson Miller has a distinguished record of service at the regional and international levels. The Public Administrator is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, which is an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize on women’s issues.
During her career as a senior public administrator, she served as vice president of the Organization of American States’ High-level Inter-American Network on Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation; Chairperson of the Caribbean Forum of Ministers responsible for decentralization, local government, community development and citizen participation, and board member of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.
On September 3, 2007, Simpson-Miller’s party narrowly lost the general election, retaining 27 seats against the rival Jamaican Labour Party’s 33 seats. This margin was revised to 32–28 after recounts and an election petition decision concerning the eligibility of a government MP who had dual citizenship.
The loss can in part be attributed to a well planned and executed campaign by the JLP. A part of their campaign strategy was a media blitz that claimed to highlight 18 years of neglect under the PNP and the incompetence of Simpson-Miller as a leader. One advertisement highlighted the deplorable conditions in Simpson-Miller’s own constituency of South West St. Andrew while others were created from controversial interviews and still others discussed issues surrounding her competence as a leader.
Simpson-Miller initially refused to concede defeat, alleging voting irregularities and the possibility that recounts would change the final result. The Organization of American States issued a statement declaring the election free and fair. “I believe this election can stand international scrutiny,” said OAS assistant secretary-general Albert Ramdin, who led a team of international observers who monitored the election. She conceded defeat on 5 September. On 11 September, Simpson Miller was succeeded as prime minister by JLP leader Bruce Golding.
In 2011, Golding resigned, making way for Andrew Holness to become the 9th Prime Minister of Jamaica.
She has also been a member of the Board of Trustees of CIFAL, which is an international training centre for governmental authorities in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2011 she was appointed by the UN Secretary General, to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). She also chairs the CARICOM Committee on External Trade.