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'Portia Simpson Miller is a legend'

Supporters praise former PM at PNP Women's Movement annual conference

Thursday, July 20, 2017

THERE was high praise for former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, whose more than 40-year tenure in politics was celebrated by the People's National Party (PNP) Women's Movement at their 44th annual conference, where she was honoured on Sunday.

The venue — Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston — saw mainly female supporters turning out in their bright orange suits to hail Simpson Miller, who was also a former president of the women-centred political organisation.

At a few minutes past three, Simpson Miller ran into the venue, much to the delight of those who went to support her. After a brief period of cheering and dancing, the programme resumed and the tributes started flowing.

Jennifer McLeod, a representative from the movement's region six, in her tribute, hailed Simpson Miller as the “first female prime minister”, “the leader of the Opposition” and “the great leader of this party (PNP)”.

According to McLeod, Simpson Miller was a great female leader who worked hard as a Member of Parliament in her former constituency of St Andrew South Western, to educate young people by sending them to school, and as a minister by ceaselessly bargaining on behalf of working-class people as well the elderly and the poor.

“So this great female leader has walked with kings and queens but never lost the common touch. You loved, you hugged, you kissed, you led this party with dignity and vibrancy. You travelled on behalf of this country to other women in other countries, so we could get IMF (International Monetary Fund) support to run this country,” McLeod said, to which the crowd responded by repeatedly chanting “Portia”.

Member of Parliament for St Catherine Eastern Denise Daley, in her tribute, also highlighted that Simpson Miller had made invaluable contributions to the nation, while stressing that the guest of honour should be hailed as a tenacious leader.

“I am convinced that the Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller, former Comrade leader, epitomises tenacity. It takes tenacity to steer the course for 41 years in service to a people, a country; in a career which presents so many challenges, oftentimes at the risk of losing family, friends and also your supporters. You, madam, have earned my respect,” Daley said.

She went on to say that she sees the former PNP president as a fierce Jamaican woman who is not afraid to speak her mind, and though often misunderstood by her critics, history will absolve her as truly iconic.

Daley added that Jamaica's political history has been made richer, more colourful and more interesting because of Simpson Miller's involvement.

Meanwhile, Caymanian Bishop Juliette Fagan said Simpson Miller's reach far extended beyond the shores of Jamaica, stating that she, too, has been inspired by her political activism.

“She's bold, she's courageous and not only that, but when someone says that you couldn't do it, some say you didn't have the education, some say you didn't go university, some say you wouldn't impact Jamaica, but I'm Caymanian, so you didn't just impact Jamaicans but you impacted women all over the world and I am one of them,” Fagan said to cheers of support from the audience.

She said such is her love and admiration for the former prime minister that her husband would say to her that she is “more Jamaican than the Jamaicans”.

“I just want to say to you they talk about legends, whether they want to put her as a legend on TV or not, Grand Cayman counts you as a legend. We don't have to wait until she dies and put her in a casket and talk about she was a legend. As of today, we declare here in Jamaica that Portia Simpson Miller is a legend,” Fagan continued.

Simpson Miller, in her response to the numerous tributes, expressed her appreciation, highlighting that the PNP Women's Movement holds a special place in her heart. She said, too, that she is most proud of the achievements, such as the Child care and Protection Act and Maternity Leave (with pay) Act, that they were able to accomplish together.

She noted that she is angry at how women are being abused and treated in the country, and that Government needs to take some serious steps to combat the crimes. The former St Andrew South Western MP added that the legal framework must be strengthened to bring harsher penalties against those who commit crimes against women and children.

“The work for the empowerment of women cannot stop until every woman is fully liberated, until every woman is free from sexual and physical abuse… Let us embrace our responsibility as comrades, let us stay true to values and best ideals, protect the poor, the vulnerable, dispossessed and marginalised,” Simpson Miller said.

Simpson Miller was also presented with the organisation's first 'Woman of Courage Award' at the event.

— Javene Skyers