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Patterson the best PM, says Gillette

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

Thursday, August 12, 2010    

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FORMER Member of Parliament and Minister of State Terrence "Terry" Gillette has named former Prime Minister PJ Patterson as the politician that he admires most and the one he believes is the best leader that Jamaica has produced.

In an interview with the Observer, Gillette, now a Roman Catholic deacon who retired from active politics in 2002 following a political career which spanned 30 years, said that Patterson had set a lasting example of leadership.

In giving Patterson the nod over the colourful, charismatic and flamboyant Michael Manley under whose leadership he made his mark in the People's National Party, Gillette described the retired veteran as a class act.

"PJ Patterson was the wind beneath Michael's sail," Gillette said from the comfort of his verandah at Woodside in Central St Mary.

"I know that Michael had his own way about things in many ways, but I regard Patterson as being the person who made him able to do most of what he was able to do," Gillette said.

As for the person who stamped his authority and outshone others in the area of political governance and state leadership, Gillette said that Patterson had no equal.

"If he is the only one ever to have been prime minister for 14 years, then you don't need anybody to explain that to you. He must have been the best prime minister.

"He couldn't have been repeating terms as prime minister, if he wasn't the best," Gillette added.

As for what in his estimation made Patterson so special, Gillette gave a straightforward analysis.

"His methodical approach to everything is admirable. He was a man for all seasons. PJ showed that he knew what he was doing and did it properly. He didn't guess.

"I had a stint with PJ as a schoolboy while I attended Cornwall College. That was my first exposure to him and I saw how thorough and meticulous he was. If you notice how easily he quotes the bible... the only man who can quote the bible as fluently as PJ does, must know about all things.

"I had the experience of working with him in 1980, travelling from Jamaica to New York from New York to London, from London to Oslo, Oslo back to London and over to Nairobi, Kenya on the way to Zimbabwe for the inauguration of that country's leaders (Robert Mugabe and Joshua N'Komo).

"One thing about him during that time, was the only time that he wasted was when the plane was in flight for short periods.

"While flying from London to Zimbabwe, he worked with Bob Marley and his team throughout the flight, in lengthy discussion, so he wasn't totally idle. We didn't sleep, because we were totally occupied with Bob Marley and his entourage.

"Patterson doesn't waste time. He uses it for the betterment of everybody with whom he works. This is why he is still so successful. Even since his retirement, people are asking him to come out of total retirement to help them with all different things.

"I would say he wasn't as colourful as Michael Manley, but you would sum up his time and see that day by day he achieved more than anyone else," Gillette said.

Gillette, 73, served as minister of state for construction (works) and later agriculture under Patterson, but has no regrets that he was never made a full minister.

Apart from representing the people of St Mary, first as a parish councillor for the Belfield division in 1974, and later MP for East Central and Western St Mary between 1976 and 2002, broken by his party's boycott of parliament between 1983 and 1989, Gillette was also deeply involved in parliamentary affairs and was one of the party's standard bearers in that area.

For the Bethel Town, Westmoreland-born, father of 14, who was once a successful insurance salesman, baker, and farmer, the worst period of Jamaica's life occurred during the time that former prime minister Edward Seaga ran the country as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party.

"I frankly think that the difficulties that we went through between 1980 and 1989 put Jamaica into an untenable period. The things that happened to Jamaica during that period have left an indelible mark in Jamaica's history.

"Even now that (Bruce) Golding is in power, I get the impression of him doing more positives than what happened between 1980 and 1989," Gillette said.

By contrast, Gillette sees the period between 1972 and 1976, as the best time for Jamaica, as according to him it was a colourful time, with positive success.

"There has been no clear successful period. There have been points and pockets of success, but no smooth sailing. I feel that I will leave this world without smooth sailing, because so many things have been going wrong, especially the productivity of the nation. As long as we continue this negatives in productivity, you won't have smooth sailing," said Gillette, who recalls his achievements in road improvement, electricity, water supply and education as "the basic foundations that I have laid down, providing people with access to success".

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