Heartiest congratulations on 40 years of service, Prime Minister
TO have survived 40 years in Jamaica's political culture is, indeed, an achievement of no mean order. Only a few can boast of it, and fewer yet have done four decades and are still in the fray.
We join the nation today in saluting Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who celebrates the 40th anniversary of her entry to representational politics and a lifetime of service to Jamaica.
Elsewhere in this edition, we begin a series of articles tracing her remarkable journey from Wood Hall, St Catherine, via Trench Town to Jamaica House, St Andrew. There is great truth in accepting that to remain 40 years at any endeavour must call for awesome resolve and an unfathomable depth of commitment. If that commitment is in the political arena, from councillor to member of parliament, it would also take nerves of steel and, often, a true heart of gold.
Those who, like Mrs Simpson Miller, offer themselves to serve as politicians, are subject to adulation and abasement. It is the nature of the beast. It is often a thankless job in which too many of our people see the politician as only a meal ticket, a substitute provider for their school-age children, a financier to bury their dead, a 'boops' to eat out at election time, and, of course, someone to blame for all the troubles of the land.
Mrs Simpson Miller has faced it all, and in the doing of it placed her name in the annals of Jamaican history as the first woman prime minister of a not insignificant country and a noteworthy people.
Born December 12, 1945, Mrs Portia Lucretia Simpson Miller became the first woman and only the fourth president of the People's National Party (PNP) in March 2006, after serving as a vice-president from 1978. This was the prelude to becoming Jamaica's seventh prime minister after a tough contest to succeed Mr P J Patterson, and in which she defeated three outstanding men, all of whom had doctorates.
Overcoming her disappointment after failing to get her own mandate when she tasted defeat at the hands of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the September 2007 elections, she again showed the strength of a Jamaican woman by emerging victorious from a second challenge in 2008 for leadership of the PNP by Dr Peter Phillips, today her virtual number two as finance minister.
Between December 1976, when she was elected to the House of Representatives from the South-west St Andrew constituency, and 2006, when she became leader of Government, Mrs Simpson Miller served as minister of labour, social security and sport; minister of tourism and sport; and minister of local government and sport. Upon winning the December 2011 elections, she became only the second individual to have served non-consecutive terms as prime minister, the first having been Mr Michael Manley, one of her early mentors.
Mrs Simpson Miller holds the additional distinction of being ranked by Time magazine among its '100 Most Influential Persons in the World' in 2012. She is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former female presidents and prime ministers, and a vice-president of Socialist International.
Heartiest congratulations, Madam Prime Minister.