“Andrew, do the right thing!”

Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaica
Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaica

On February 25, 2016 the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Andrew Michael Holness, won the general elections.

There have been multiple post-election analyses across various media as to what led to the JLP’s win. Many pegged it to the People’s National Party’s (PNP’s) arrogance, especially during the election campaign. And taking a broader look at the roughly 48% voter turn-out, it is clear that the electorate are…well… “over it”. Regardless of how you dissect it, though, the JLP now forms the government.

When the PNP won in 2011, the same post-election sentiments were dominant – the ousted government was too arrogant. So it wasn’t unreasonable to actually imagine that the incoming government at the time would “tek sleep mark death” and tread carefully, despite its majority status. But it became (almost immediately) apparent, that the voice of the people held value only at the polls. Despite criticizing the size of the Cabinet of the administration before, (now) former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller appointed an even larger executive, and reinstating a salary increase that the Bruce Golding administration denied themselves. New SUV’s were purchased for government ministers at a cost of roughly $60M. Legislation were changed with amazing speed to facilitate the government servicing debt using the National Housing Trust. Accountability was a foreign concept (think Spalding Market, Krauk & Anchor, 360MW bid, Chik-V, Outameni, Klebsiella deaths, etc…). No matter how many times and how loudly the Jamaican people spoke against these significant matters of basic governance, it was as if the government was selectively deaf. Those who dared to speak up were branded as “enemy of the state”, “the chattering class” or the “articulate minority”.

So, on February 25, 2016, the chattocracy spoke where they knew they would be heard – at the polls. And oh how they articulated! They (including those who opted to not participate in the process) gave the JLP a chance at government. The JLP managed to wrest 11 seats from the PNP in an election that had many people (literally) betting against them.

JLP leader and newly appointed Prime Minister Andrew Holness appears (at this stage) to understand the nuances of this victory. His party, under his leadership, worked hard to connect with the people across Jamaica – so much so that 11 seats changed hands. But based on his victory speech on the night of the election, he seems to “get it”:

“It is not the end of a journey; it is the beginning of changing Jamaica… We don’t take it that we have won a prize. We have been given stewardship of the country, and we stand to be held to account for our stewardship. We know that the cost of victory is accountability. The cost of victory is the responsiveness of the government that we will form. The cost of victory is to keep the commitments that we have made.” – Andrew Holness, February 25, 2016

This is a most sober statement. It is easy for a party and its leader to become lost in the euphoria of victory, and perhaps even to become drunk with power during governance. This sentiment shared by Mr. Holness is a flicker of hope that Jamaica will actually have a government that does not take the people whom it serves for granted.

The Most Honourable Prime Minister, in his inaugural speech on March 3, 2016 recalled an elderly voter telling him “Andrew, do the right thing!” He reiterated the burden of victory, and subsequently governance, in this memorable line:

“There is no majority for arrogance. There is no space for selfishness. There is no place for pettiness. There is no room for complacency, and there is no margin for error.”

(I pause to note how this statement plays on statistical terms – statistics which the JLP appeared to have defied in the 2016 elections.)

Deep within I hope against hope that this profound statement was not made only in light of the thin majority that the governing party has. I  sincerely hope that it comes from a place of true conviction and belief that there truly is no place for arrogance, selfishness, pettiness, complacency and error in governance. That this administration WILL listen to the people of Jamaica, not take us for granted, and be “straight up” in its dealings and communications.

In a post election interview with Kevin O’Brien Chang on NCU FM on February 28, Mr. Holness said:

“…people try and misquote and misrepresent what I have said and therefore I keep a very detailed record. In fact, I record everything that I say.”

So do I, Prime Minister Holness. The manifesto is on stand-by.

“Do the right thing!”

– @MizDurie, @ThinkJamaica