A joyful holiday season indeed for the PNP one year ago

Election 2011 — looking back

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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

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DECEMBER 29, 2011: The flames from the popular and always controversial one-night reggae show Sting had been safely put out three days before, but it seemed that the embers had blown from Jamworld Entertainment Complex to 89 Old Hope Road where the formerly Opposition People's National Party was hosting a one-night party of its own, right on the lawns of its headquarters.

The party had vanquished the Jamaica Labour Party and regained State power that night and the jumping and shouting had reached a crescendo.

"No more cyaan hold... the stage full up...", one member of the party's enforcement team told this writer, when an attempt was made to get closer to key party functionaries who were in their element on the platform, from which the sweet talk would soon begin.

Though the ballot count was incomplete, the party had already gained a majority of the 32 seats needed to secure victory in the 63-seat House of Representatives. One by one, additional results rolled in, and seats that not even the staunchest sceptic had expected to go the party's way, did, and the country changed course.

"Yeah, yeah," roared a section of the crowd when the latest count of the battleground East Rural St Andrew seat showed the dreadlocked Damion Crawford leading former executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority, Joan Gordon-Webley, with a mere three boxes to count.

"I don't want to see that woman in Parliament," one man of the cloth shouted. "I just hope that Damion holds on."

Crawford did, sentencing Gordon- Webley to her second-consecutive defeat in general elections and blotting her career which promised so much after her first election triumph in the same constituency over the PNP's stand-in candidate Perry Stultz in the bruising and bloody 1980 General Election.

That night, the sound system operator reeled out tune after tune from leading Jamaican deejays and singers boosting the atmosphere. He was the darling of victory-drunk crowd of PNP who converged on the party's HQ... until Prime Minister-elect Portia Simpson Miller arrived.

As the minutes ticked by, and appetites widened for the emergence of Simpson Miller, veterans of the party, including Dr Peter Phillips, Dr Omar Davies, Robert Pickersgill, Phillip Paulwell, and others revelled in the media spotlight, giving interview after interview and mingling with journalists, even those representing media organisations that were deemed to be not too 'chummy' with the PNP.

By the time Simpson Miller arrived to howls of excitement, the PNP's tally of 41 seats to the JLP's 22 had been confirmed by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica. Days later, that number would rise to 42, following the reversal of the St Elizabeth South West seat from the JLP's Dr Christopher Tufton, to newcomer Hugh Buchanan.

The PNP had claimed 53 per cent of the votes cast, and for the first time in Jamaica's history, a political party, the JLP, had served only one term in power, that term lasting four of the five years allowed.

Simpson Miller told cheering Comrades that she wanted to congratulate Prime Minister Andrew Holnes, who had telephoned her to concede the election and to
offer his own congratulations on the PNP's victory.

She also urged PNP supporters to show love the their JLP counterparts.

"I am humbled by the support of the Jamaican people, and I ask you to ensure that you greet JLP supporters with love," Simpson Miller told
her supporters.

It would mark the beginning of a taxing journey for Simpson Miller, who had before served as Jamaica's first woman prime minister between March 2006 and September 2007.

The PNP's campaign train, which rolled out early in the year with its islandwide bus tour, ran on the basis of re-establishing a borrowing arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, which it claimed the ruling JLP had messed up, and also suggested a short-term, job-creation project called the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), which Simpson Miller first announced three months before the general election at the party's annual conference.

In an effort to cool tempers of consumers disgruntled by rising electricity costs, the PNP also vowed to renegotiate the contract with the island's main supplier of electricity, the Jamaica Public Service Company.

But all of that rhetoric was tossed aside when the masses gathered at 89 Old Hope Road.

The party faithful didn't seem to care one bit about the plans going forward... all that seemed important was the dumping of the JLP from office and the reclaiming of State power.

As the liquor flowed and the music blared, hope emerged that the tough economic and social conditions that had held back Jamaica's progress for decades would be improved.

"Only PNP can tek Jamaica outa dis ya mess, Comrade. The Labourite dem don't even know how fi get deal from IMF," one jubilant middle-aged man shouted out.

"Audley Shaw (former finance minister) soak up the IMF deal and mek we cyaan get no money, but we ago set things right," he continued.

Recent developments in negotiations with the IMF will no doubt raise questions regarding the accuracy of such a claim.




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