KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — The election of Portia Simpson Miller, 66, as Prime Minister of Jamaica over Andrew Holness, 39, in December suggests that the electorate values experience over youth, according to Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
Simpson Miller on Thursday — for a second time — took the Oath of Office as Jamaica’s first and only female prime minister.
She was first sworn in as prime minister in 2006 and served until 2007 when she was ousted in a general election won by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
She returned in December to lead the People’s National Party (PNP) to win 42 of the 63 seats.
Gonsalves on Wednesday congratulated his “dear friend” Simpson Miller for “the fantastic victory” of the PNP, a fraternal party of his Unity Labour Party (ULP).
“You notice a lot of the youngsters in the JLP didn’t do so well. And even the leader, he won his seat by a hundred-and-something votes,” he told journalists here, adding that there were predictions what the JLP was “going to sweep the polls”.
“You know, youth is one thing and youth is very important, because there is a lot of energy in young people and we need to make sure that that energy is harnessed. But people want to know that you have safe hands to.
“And people want to know you have a certain amount of wisdom. That you have spent a little time in the wilderness; that you have a little wilderness experience,” said Gonsalves, who turns 66 on Aug. 8 and is into his third term as prime minister.
“I remember when Mr. Holness became prime minister at 39, a lot of people wrote that every leader must follow the example of Bruce Golding and leave,” said Gonsalves.
He was speaking of former the Jamaica prime minister who stepped down in October.
Golding’s career was compromised by his 2009 handling of the extradition of the Jamaican drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke to the United States.
The former prime minister allowed the contracting of a law firm to lobby Washington to drop its request for extradition and Golding resisted Coke’s extradition for nine months before violence broke out in Jamaica resulting in the death of scores of citizens.
Coke later pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him.
“Well, Bruce Golding had a problem. He, himself, said that he couldn’t handle the thing. Dudus and other things were coking him so he had to leave. I don’t have nothing choking me,” Gonsalves further said.
“The people just elect me. Why I must leave?” said the ULP leader, who was re-elected in December 2010.
“… What I have to do, what is part of my responsibility now, is that I have to make sure that the next generalisation of leaders within the Unity Labour Party are given a chance to grow and develop so that when the people say to me, ‘Well, Ralph, you have to go home’ that there is a set of youngster who have come along who have a sufficiency of experience and who people feel that it is safe to put it in their hands. It is that simple. It is not complicated. It is not advanced nuclear physics,” Gonsalves further stated.