Rowe: Holness, Nine-Day Wonder?

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Above: National Security Minister Sen. Dwight Nelson, Finance Minister Audley Shaw and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness (Photo: OPM Jamaica)

By David P Rowe
Op-Ed Contributor

In 1554, Lady Jane Grey was, for nine days, Queen of England before her execution at Tower Green. Andrew Holness may find himself a nine-day Prime Minister of Jamaica if he calls an early election. The devastating decline in the Jamaican economy over the past few years has left most Jamaicans in a bad mood and the international lending agencies in a tailspin.

When the announcement was made for Holness, I wondered, why not [Agriculture and Fisheries Minister] Robert Montague? Montague is young, bright , well-educated and in possession of very strong political credentials. He is a specialist in local education and he is respected on both sides of the House. Montague is more of a parliamentarian than Holness. However Montague is not a favourite of Jamaica’s Chinese-American upper class, nor is he a favourite of the Lebanese-Jamaican business class. It could be that he is too black for the JLP, as they only seem to favor red and white candidates. Is there racial discrimination in modern Jamaica?

Andrew Holness is, at best, a Professional Politician. He is neither a lawyer nor an accountant, but he is going to have to address and deal with serious international law and serious accounting issues. He has no track record of success in a major law firm or a major business house, and in his tenure as the Minister of Education, he failed to work out a deal with the teachers, which has lead to a huge impasse between Jamaica Teachers Association and himself.

Mr Holness does not seem to have an ideological position that would allow us to call him “left of center”, “right of center” or even “center”. He has never made a speech in Parliament or outside which would give us an indication of his political philosophy. His initial speech, which called an end to Garrisons is a major move in the right direction. He will not be able to dismantle Garrisons without getting rid of JLP Garrison leaders and taking the guns from the Shower Posse. He would have already heard in his US trip to Washington that the alleged connection between the Shower Posse and the JLP will not be tolerated and that the Shower Posse prosecutions from New York are not complete. 

Mr Holness will have to refashion the bilateral relationship between the United States and Jamaica, which was almost destroyed by the actions of Bruce Golding’s administration. He will need a serious and qualified Ambassador and he will need to formulate a foreign policy to which he should stick. One of the Prime Minister’s early obligations will be to give a lengthy and detailed report concerning Jamaica’s relationship with the IMF, and whether the relationship with the IMF will result in public sector shortages. If the public sector is going to be cut, the questions are where and when will it be cut and whether the cuts are going to be permanent. 

The question of Jamaica’s conversion from oil to Liquid Natural Gas (LNG)  is a very important subject area. Are the LNG supporters essentially as questionable as the Contractor General has characterized them in his formal reports? Is the LNG a reliable long-term resource which would lower the consumers electric bills? 

If the new Prime Minister lasts beyond nine days, he will have many challenges to overcome. 

David P Rowe is an attorney in Florida and Jamaica and a professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal op-eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.