Jamaica’s First Female PM Sworn in Today

Portia Simpson Miller was sworn in for the second time as Jamaica’s prime minister today (January 5, 2012) at King’s House in Kingston, Jamaica, pledging to work “unswervingly to achieve the desired growth, development, and to lift the standard of living in Jamaica.” She spoke about her plans to ease poverty, boost the economy, heal political divisions, and sever colonial-era links with Britain.

According to the Jamaica Gleaner, Simpson Miller had served as prime minister for 530 days between March 30, 2006, and September 11, 2007. Her stay in office was terminated after she failed to lead the PNP to victory against Bruce Golding’s JLP in the September 3, 2007, general election. “This time it is different from when I was first sworn in. The first time was from the delegates of the People’s National Party. This time, I am going with the mandate of the majority of the Jamaican people who voted in the elections,” Simpson Miller said. [. . .] She joins Sir Alexander Bustamante and Michael Manley as the only political leaders to take the oath of office after suffering a general election loss.

The Washington Post reports that the politician scored a dramatic victory in last week’s national elections, leading her slightly left-leaning People’s National Party to a 2-to-1 margin in Parliament over the center-right Jamaica Labor Party. Her opposition faction won a dominating 42 seats in the 63-seat legislature, leaving the incumbent party with 21. “The plainspoken, charismatic Simpson Miller, this Caribbean island’s first female prime minister, takes over from Andrew Holness, a 39-year-old Labor lawmaker who was leader for just over two months.

She said her government intends to abandon the British monarch as Jamaica’s official head of state, and instead adopt a republican form of government. Jamaica declared independence from Britain in 1962 but remains within the Commonwealth and has Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. “I love the queen; she is a beautiful lady,” Simpson Miller quipped, before speaking to the audience in Jamaican patois: “But I think time come.” Simpson Miller also said she will replace the Privy Council in London with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica’s highest court of appeal. She said this will “end judicial surveillance from London.”

She vowed her government will “ease the burdens and the pressues of increasing poverty, joblessness and deteriorating standards of living” while also pursuing a tight fiscal policy and forging strong partnerships with the private sector and international partners such as the International Monetary Fund. In the short- and medium-term, the prime minister said her administration will use “state resources” to stimulate jobs through the Jamaica Emergency Employment Program, a centerpiece of her party’s campaign manifesto.

[. . .] The prime minister also urged Jamaicans to create a more civil and respectful society and earnestly strive to make the best of themselves.

[Many thanks to Rod Fusco for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full articles, see http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120105/lead/lead1.html and http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/americas/portia-simpson-miller-sworn-in-2nd-time-as-jamaicas-prime-minister/2012/01/05/gIQABlAOdP_story.html

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