Andrew's tough fall from glory

By HG HELPS Editor-at-Large

Sunday, January 01, 2012


ANDREW Michael Holness had been seen by many of his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters as the Messiah. At age 39, Holness had positioned himself to be the flag-bearer of a new generation of young, vibrant and energetic politicians, and when the opportunity came following several internal party discussions, he was put forward to be the official mouthpiece for a JLP touting renewal.

But the older, mature Portia Simpson Miller burst the once seemingly invincible bubble of the management specialist, and now the JLP leader has been forced to rethink his strategy going forward.

By serving only two months and a week, Holness edged out another JLP prime minister, Donald Sangster, to be the second shortest serving Jamaican leader in history. Sangster died on April 11, 1967, following medical complications. He acted as prime minister when JLP founder Sir Alexander Bustamante fell ill in 1964 and took over from Bustamante on February 23, 1967.

How Holness's popularity soared since his entry into representational politics 14 years ago remains a talking point in some social circles.

Women often compliment him on his good looks and his ability to communicate effectively with everyone -- attributes that gained him respect and love in most places that he went.

Holness, who was born on July 22, 1972, got his break after he was declared winner of the St Andrew West Central seat over the People's National Party's Dr Warren Blake after the 1997 general election.

The move followed a decision by the Court after investigations of voting irregularities and he got the nod over Dr Blake the following year, ending a litany of confusion over the seat that initially went to the PNP condidate.

Since that historic moment, Holness has kept the PNP out of the winner's enclosure in a seat that the party had once dominated.

His even more telling achievement though, came at the end of the 2007 general election when then Prime Minister Bruce Golding appointed him education minister, a portfolio that he held up to last Thursday's election.

His work in education was consistently reviewed by critics and staunch supporters alike, with his detractors citing as a deficiency, his inability to end the deadlock that led to the non-appointment of over 60 public school principals and a further 700 vice-principals and senior officials of schools islandwide.

The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) insisted that Holness's advisor, Alphansus Davis, could not also chair the Teachers' Services Commission (TSC). For five months, neither party chose to budge until Golding summoned them to a meeting and the matter was resolved, with Davis quitting as Holness's advisor, but staying on as TSC chairman.

That matter raised questions about Holness's capacity to serve as prime minister when, according to his critics, he could not amicably iron out a dispute that affected the sector he oversaw.

Golding's exit from Jamaica House over, among other things, matters connected to the extradition of former fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke to the United States, and the maturity of other JLP leaders in embracing Holness for party leader, enabled the former St Catherine High School head boy to catapult into the top political job of the land.

The JLP's rise in public popularity, all because of the emergence of Holness at the top, proved crucial in the young politician deciding to call an early election.

Soon, opinion polls that had the PNP comfortably ahead, were giving Holness and his party the mental strength that convinced them that they would secure another five-year term in Government.

However, the sheen began to rub off Holness's ball, especially with his public utterances and his providing information that proved, statistically, to be incorrect. Public chastisement of the Jamaican mainstream media did not help either.

Tagged with the label 'Baby Bruce' by the PNP, which presented him as 'Golding's offspring', Holness was faced with a race against time to win the confidence of the majority of voters and with that, the authority to lead Jamaica's mission of reducing the national debt, addressing unemployment, finding favour with the International Monetary Fund, lowering crime, and growing the economy.

As the JLP information spokesman Arthur Williams said on the night of the election, the result may have been even more devastating had Holness not been the leader of the JLP.

His job of party leader looks safe for now, political analysts have said, but they have also suggested that the next five years will prove uneasy for the man who wears that crown.

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1/7/2012 - 2:48 AM
Thanks for starting the ball rolling with this insihgt.

1/2/2012 - 2:26 AM
Mr Holness has the ability to unite Jamaica in peace and love. The youth can identify with Mr Holness which empowers them to aim for greatness. If we speak of a new style of politics wouldn't the post-independence generation offer this? Youths should be critical and vigilant of how Mr Holness was treated. He was running for the job of Prime Minister and was criticised for being inexperienced although he was a Minister and Leader of Govt Bus. Andrew is a good leader because God is his leader.
Nicholos Spence
1/2/2012 - 1:27 AM
@ Paul Gentles, if Jamaicans are not dunce, why vote in a leader that does not seek to educate her constituency, behaves like a hooligan and is selling our moral standards for foreign financial aid. We should call a spade a spade. For most of who that voted on election day were "grass root" persons, meaning, that persons who are not so educated and/or those who have a "hand to mouth" mentality and is not concerned about the future.
Maude Cooper
1/1/2012 - 8:38 PM
Mr. Holness will have to now choose between being a Preacher and Opposition Leader. For how effective could a practicing 7th. Day Adventist be as Prime Minister that is a 24/7 position? As well, he will have to show tolerance sometimes contrary to his religion.
1/1/2012 - 2:27 PM
Sir Winston Churchill found his time in opposition to be particularly central to his future leadership. Who can argue with Sir Winston? Being in the wilderness is necessary for greatness. We have all spent sometime there and know it's value!
bill allen
1/1/2012 - 12:35 PM
Like RICHARD MILHOUSE NIXON The 37th president of the united states of america who lost to the popular John Fitzgerald KENNEDY, return to be president so shall ANDREW MICHAEL HOLNESS return...and not long as it took mr. nixon
Paul Gentles
1/1/2012 - 12:24 PM
"he was put forward to be the official mouthpiece for a JLP touting renewal." Says it all. A barfaced attempt to dupe the people.
Had to market the party on himself and not his "team" as it would only pronounce that there was in reality, no change. Never distanced himself from the episodes that put his party on the back-foot leading to bruce's resignation. Just saying he was younger was not good enough.

Hugh Maxwell
1/1/2012 - 10:50 AM
It was said that the PNP outsmarted the JLP. Well, it seems like under the same person - Portia, who was described as 'no-intellectual' outsmarted the intellectual - Andrew. I have always said though that the latter was too young and naive to certain elements in politics and even running a country. But can you imagine? Holness they say won the debate, but Portia won the election. Which attribute is better to run a country?
Paul Gentles
1/1/2012 - 10:48 AM
Andrew, the people recognise was shooed in as a face a puppet, he never earned his mandate from his party.
The contents of the package remained the same - I can't recall, the st Thomas MP without visa, even buffered by the former customs man who the OCG rightfully have an interest in, so which direction was he headed?
Jcans are not illiterate or dunces - they could read and discern that though the name changed the ingredients remained the same and the bitterness was being enhanced!