Portia lashes Andrew
Says PM has ‘memory lapse’ or attempting to ‘mislead’ people
BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller suggested Monday night that Prime Minister Andrew Holness was unfit to lead because of what she perceived as either "memory lapse" or a deliberate attempt to "mislead the Jamaican people".
She was referring to statements made by the prime minister late Sunday in Mandeville — prior to announcing December 12 and December 29 as dates for nomination of candidates and parliamentary election respectively — as he criticised 18 years of governance by the opposition People's National Party (PNP), ending in September 2007.
"I don't know how the country could put the wheels of Jamaica in the hands of a man who is suffering from memory lapse or is deliberately trying to mislead the Jamaican people by telling untruths...," Simpson Miller told thousands of orange-clad, flag-waving party supporters at the Black River town centre.
The mass meeting followed an afternoon tour of sections of North East, North West and South West St Elizabeth by Simpson Miller and other members of the party hierarchy.
Long before Simpson Miller took the microphone, speaker after speaker verbally lashed Holness for what they suggested were untruths and misrepresentation of the facts.
They zeroed in on Holness's assertion that when the JLP took power in 2007, the exchange rate was $90 to one US dollar.
Simpson Miller said the exchange rate on election day in September 2007 "was J$69.37 to US$1. One day after election it went up to $70 for one US dollar...
"It only got to 89 to one in 2009 on April 14 under the Jamaica Labour Party Government that he is very much a part of ...," said the Opposition leader.
Holness was also condemned for comments suggesting an absence of economic growth during the PNP years between 1989 and 2007.
Simpson Miller pointed out that there was actual economic growth measured by the country's official statistical agencies in "15 of the 18 years".
Likewise the Opposition leader rejected attempts to minimise or downplay unemployment since the JLP took power in 2007. "No, Mr Prime Minister; over 100,000 persons lost their jobs," said Simpson Miller.
She pointed to figures showing a large segment of the population below the poverty line and accused Holness and the JLP Government of lacking sensitivity to issues of impoverishment and deprivation.
Simpson Miller urged the prime minister to consider the plight of thousands who were out of a job because they had been made redundant or their employers had gone bust. Holness, she said, should consider the suddenly unemployed bread winner who "goes one side and cries tears for his family..." and "the mother who goes to the bathroom, lock herself away, and cry because she does not want her children to see her fear..."
She claimed plans were being made for a restructuring of public sector pension arrangements without careful attention to what she said was the increasing inability of government workers to make ends meet.
"That is why Jamaicans can never make the mistake of voting them in again because they do not understand ...," Simpson Miller said.
In the wake of recent break-ins at the offices of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) and the Institute of Sports, the Opposition leader called on the Government and all permanent secretaries to do all in their power to protect government documents.
She voiced alarm at what she appeared to suggest were attempts to cover up and even destroy relevant information in a context of allegations of corruption against the Government and audits by the Auditor General's Department.
"I want to ask all permanent secretaries to ensure the safety and security of all government documents at every ministry and agency of government, and while I can't give any instructions I am asking the man that will be the shortest serving prime minister in the history of Jamaica, if he claims to be decisive, instruct that (at) every government ministry and agency that the files and documents be secured and we are not joking because when we take office in a few weeks we want to find the documents intact," she said.
The Opposition leader claimed it was "strange" that "when something came to the fore that things were not right at the Institute of Sports that the place was broken into and files went missing and that (on the weekend) sections of the National Solid Waste Management Authority particularly where they store documents, were broken into and set afire".
She suggested that the contractor general and auditor general should move in and "seize the documents from now" whenever they have reason for concern.
Noting that Nomination Day, December 12, will be her birthday and that the day before elections, December 28, will be that of Campaign Director Peter Phillips, Simpson Miller said both had agreed to postpone celebrations until election night (December 29) when she believes victory will have been secured for her party.
Simpson Miller, who turns 66 on December 12, said the birthday "gift" of an election victory would be particularly meaningful because of the "suffering" under the JLP.
"My God, even the dead a suffer under Jamaica Labour Party Government," Simpson Miller said.
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