AHEAD of today's keynote address to the People's National Party (PNP) annual conference, President Portia Simpson Miller has received a stout defence of her alleged reticence on national issues.
"Many of those who are saying that the prime minister should speak more, once said, and probably are still of the view, that she cannot speak," said
Delano Franklyn, the former chief advisor to then Prime Minister P J Patterson.
"There are those in the chattering classes in the society who have been talking up a storm that Prime Minister Portia Simpson is not talking enough.
A quick check of the records will show that most of those who are now carrying that line had predicted, nine months ago, that the PNP, the party of which Mrs Simpson Miller is the president, would have lost the general elections.
"In other words, left to most of the entrenched members of the chattering classes, Mrs Simpson Miller would have been silenced on December 29, 2011," said Franklyn, a lawyer and losing PNP candidate in the December elections.
Simpson Miller who has insisted that her ministers must represent their portfolios, and that she would rather work than talk, has come in for heavy flak from critics, including the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and its affiliates such as the National Organisation of Women.
"When I am not talking, talking, talking, I am working! working! working!" Simpson Miller hit back last week. "I am not going to talk myself out of office," she added in a clear swipe at former Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
In a defence of his party president, Franklyn declared: "They mocked her during the election campaign. Their party promoted advertisements with her speaking and the paper she had before her being blown away by the breeze.
"One who had crossed the floor said she preferred a leader who can speak without having to look at a piece of paper," he said in obvious reference to
Sharon Hay Webster who left the PNP to join the JLP ahead of the polls.
"One even said she wanted someone who will not embarrass her internationally."
Franklyn did not mention PNP stalwarts K D Knight and Maxine Henry Wilson who criticised Simpson Miller's speaking ability during the heated party leadership contest to replace Patterson in 2006.
He said the critics had "tried every thing to hoodwink the people" but "the people never fell for it".
"They rejected the arguments of the chattering classes and backed Mrs Simpson Miller," Franklyn said, suggesting that the critics should ask themselves why someone who could not speak was getting the solid support of the people.
"When she speaks they understand her. They believe that she is for them. They believe that she is with them. That is why her popularity has remained at such a consistently high level for such a long time," he explained.
"In listening to the main vocalists among the chattering classes they have identified two main issues which, according to them, she has not spoken about.
"The first, they claim, is that she has not articulated a coherent economic policy. I am sure that when the prime minister made her budget presentation on June 5, 2012 she said, among other things: 'If we are to fix the economy and create the basis for sustainable economic growth and jobs for our people, we have to take courageous steps to tackle the growing debt and stimulate economic growth. In taking the necessary tough decisions, we will protect the most vulnerable'.
"I ask the chattering classes what more do they want?
"They also claim that in relation to the most unfortunate shooting death of a pregnant lady in St Thomas that the prime minister has remained silent. I ask the chattering classes to go and ask the family of this lady if the prime minister has remained silent.
"Certain agencies of the state including the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Office of the Public Defender and INDECOM all have critical roles to play in this matter and a prime minister had to exercise great care in what is said," Franklyn argued.
He said the Director of Public Prosecutions had been at pains to point out that the case must not be tried in public, despite the gruesome nature of the act, "because the rule of law affords each accused person the right to a defence, the outcome of which will be determined by the courts".
He pointed to the example of how "the chattering classes rushed to judgment and public condemnation of the PNP deputy mayor of Montego Bay when he was arrested by the police a few weeks ago", in the lotto scam affair.
"Many among them called for his resignation. They were not prepared to wait on the decision of the court. Now that he has been acquitted by the court, the members of the chattering classes have retreated. No apology from them. Having dragged the deputy mayor's name through the mud and gutter the members of the chattering classes have temporarily dug their heads in sand," Franklyn complained.
He believed that despite the existence and importance of the modern means of communication, such as the mass media and social media, nothing beat the good old tried and tested face-to-face engagement of the people.
"This is where Prime Minister Simpson Miller has proven herself to be most skilled and competent. She might not be on talk shows where the talkers are most comfortable. She might not appear regularly in sitcoms where members of the chattering classes are regularly invited. She might not regularly grace the social pages where members of the chattering classes takes pride of place, and she might not readily hobnob with the chatocracy on the social circuit, but she is out and about.
"She is in the urban and rural towns and communities. During the last few days, for example, she was in Spalding, Clarendon opening the refurbished market; she was in Nashville, St Mary breaking ground for the construction of housing solutions; and she was in Trench Town, Kingston where she opened a basic school on behalf of the people of that area.
"I suspect that much is not heard of these things among the chattering classes, because they are all good news. None of these made news headlines nor were they carried on the front pages. What got pride of prominence instead was 'comrades' fighting in a constituency over whether or not state funds must be spent on 'education' or 'food', reminiscent of Alexander Bustamante's mantra, that 'saalfish is better dan hedekashan'.
"The chattering classes, like taxes, will always be with us. One of the things that we must be able to do is to identify them, because if we are not careful we confuse them with others... They are certainly not numbered among the public sector, because members of the public sector are restrained by existing regulations from entering into public discourse, unless given permission by the necessary authority so to do.
"They are not members of the productive private sector, because these persons are busily engaged in their businesses... They are certainly not numbered among the hard working Jamaicans who are kept busy by the demands of their jobs, family and community obligations," he added.
"The members of the chattering classes belong to what the late Rex Nettleford referred to as the 'talk sector' and those to whom the late Carl Stone referred to in his classes as the ones who find time to do nothing else but talk.
"Next time you hear any of them you may wish to ask yourself, apart from 'so so' talk what 'real' contribution has he or she ever made to the growth and development of Jamaica," Franklyn advised.