Portia's 'vital' vote on election day

Media forced to wait, then chase the energetic Simpson Miller

By HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 01, 2012


THE mission to capture the energetic Portia Simpson Miller's vote for posterity on election day Thursday last, proved one of monumental proportions for the media.

"She will be voting at the Whitfield All Age School between 10 o'clock and noon. That's the best I can do for you," the People's National Party's (PNP) campaign spokesman, Delano Franklyn, said when enquiries were made regarding the approximate time that she would vote in her St Andrew South West constituency.

The demand for interviews was great, but a way had to be found to get her attention when the Sunday Observer arrived at the scene a few minutes before 10:00 am.

"Look, we are both Saggis (Sagittarians), and we share the same birthday, so don't think anything else," Simpson Miller told reporters and photographers snapping away while she embraced this scribe at the school shortly after satisfying a throng of media practitioners.

She was busier than a bee at a honey harvest after arriving with heavy security detail to cast her ballot for the only candidate who could win that safe seat - herself.

But instead of going through the regular voting procedures, Simpson Miller postponed, almost eternally, this exercise.

"I have to make sure that some things are sorted out. I understand that there are some issues at some of the polling stations and I am just making some checks to see that things are in place," she said.

Another query regarding whether or not she would vote soon was met with this response:

"Oh yes man, I am just going down the road to check on a few things. I will be back soon. I know that the press is here, but I wont be long," she promised.

That was around 10:40 and in between greetings from happy supporters inside the polling locations with multiple stations, she managed to get back outside the institution in a record 10 minutes.

So off she went to 'sort out' those undetermined matters elsewhere. Some supporters left with her. Others waited outside the school, preferring to imbibe the scent of the 'holy' weed that perfumed a section of Whitfield Avenue. Still others were content to just enjoy the lyrical presentations offered by a small sound system operator nearby.

In the meantime, several citizens from the area said that they knew no other name to vote for and would do whatever it took in hurdling physical challenges to mark that vital 'X'.

Centenarian Lorrette deCambre, 101, was lifted into the polling station to maintain her record of voting in every election since the granting of Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944.

"Me love her and she love me. Me feel good, feel alright," she said in a hushed tone.

Senior citizens Iris Morrison, 84, and Alzie Edwards, 73, were equally excited about voting for 'Sister P'.

"I feel confident in her," Morrison said.

"She is our leader, but the people dem in deh so (election staff) a move too slow. The good thing is that JLP people are here working, and yet they call it a garrison," Edwards said.

Greta Forbes, 55, sung a slightly different tune.

"I don't know about anybody else, but I am suffering and my family is too. There is no work nowhere. I have no place to live. When we live in rent house, they run us out. We want work to earn money to own our own house," she said.

Meanwhile, the wait for Portia continued inside and outside the school.

"Cho, a weh Portia deh man?", one videographer asked. "Boy she coulda just go vote and mek we just tek that so that we can go do other things," he said.

"Me hear seh she gone a Majesty Gardens," a reporter stated.

"But Jesus, we naah leave ya till evening," another exclaimed.

It was, by then, 11:30 and the frustrations were mounting faster than a group of Chinese laying bricks to build an Olympic wall that had to catch a hasty deadline.

"Hey, a bet say Portia don't come back ya till 4 o'clock," another videographer said.

"No man. She can't do that. She woulda never leave so much a we a wait so long," a photographer jumped in.

"Well, me a tell you, she not coming back here until 4 o'clock, vote and then go watch the election results," the videographer insisted.

For another 30 minutes, the 4 o'clock prediction seemed to be gathering steam. But then came information from further South that the wait could be much shorter.

"She down a her constituency office near Greenwich Town," one media person shouted out.

Five minutes later, more verbal encouragement.

"She leave out now and she a come back."

Soon, every media representative was armed like Christian soldiers heading of to war. Cameras, notebooks and tape recorders were summoned from their slumber and were poised for action.

Within minutes, Simpson Miller was back on the street where she owns a property at number 4A, now a partially burnt out structure that once housed her constituency office and which is now home to tenants.

"I am ready now, are they ready for me yet," she enquired of her personal staff.

Soon the process began and by 12:22, polling division 12 had another addition to its numbers - a most important one.

But there were challenges for the media - security challenges. Based on the tough regulations imposed by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, the practice of taking photographs, including the Prime Minister-designate, was not allowed.

But a way had to be found for the dozens of media photogs waiting for that critical picture, and one was. The media were eventually allowed to stay at a distance and get their shots, some arranged specially by the woman in the spotlight.

"There is nothing to prevent us from winning tonight," she boasted afterwards. "I am going now to visit other areas and candidates. We will continue to get the organisation going until the last vote is in. I have a very good feeling. I can feel the wind of change blowing across Jamaica.

"This is democracy at work. JLP (indoor and outdoor) agents are in my constituency working alongside people from Whitfield Town, Payne Land and Greenwich Town and nobody is interfering with them," she said.

However, that view was not shared by one of two JLP agents whom the Sunday Observer spoke with.

"Me feel uneasy. Me kinda 'fraid. The people dem a cuss we off and a tell we that we a Labourite and we a nobody," one said.

In keeping with the law that each voter could spend only a few minutes at any location after casting his ballot, the soon-to-be, two-time Prime Minister could not tarry.

Off in the blazing sun she raced, again, like she did on Nomination Day, leaving media and supporters gasping for breath as they tried to keep up a she hustled to her vehicle.

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Kingston Bailliff
1/2/2012 - 2:38 AM
Anthony II, why is it that you see this 95% in a negative light and not in a positive light? Why couldn't it be that the people admire the strengths of the prime minister? She was always the politician for the people, and i think she is always with her constituency. She also came out and said she was happy to see JLP agents. People will always bash you about your vote especially if the majority is voting one way - the fact is nobody was attacked based on their preference.
Anthony II
1/1/2012 - 12:18 PM
Well, even as I congratulate Ms PSM, let me also be one to rain a little on her parade. She won 95% of the votes cast in the constituency. I really think that this garrisonization of the constituency will continue to taint her achievements. I hope that before she leaves political life she will have made a contribution to reversing this process of division. I hate it when I hear one JAM say "Shi a di ongle Labourite mi like"/"Him a di ongle Comrade mi like." How can we think like that?