Andrew's tough fall from glory
By HG HELPS Editor-at-Large firstname.lastname@example.org
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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