KINGSTON, Jamaica, December 4, 2016 (CMC) – Less than a year after she led the People’s National Party (PNP) into defeat in the general elections, Portia Simpson Miller, is stepping down, a few days shy of her 71st birthday.
Simpson Miller, who served as prime minister on two occasions, told the PNP National Executive Council meeting, on Sunday, “I will leave you as party leader, but I will always be with you.”
Simpson Miller had resisted calls for her to step down after she led the then-ruling PNP into defeat in the February 25 general election that saw Andrew Holness return to the helm of government for a second time.
Simpson Miller is expected to step down by next September when the party holds its election.
The youth arm of the party, Peoples National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO), had called for her resignation, saying there was need for a change in the political vision.
Former president of the Senate, Floyd Morris, said that Simpson Miller, who first became prime minister in 2007 when PJ Patterson bowed out of politics, was forced out by persons she brought into the party.
“It hurt my heart to see how the Comrade leader was treated, even by some of the people she brought into this movement,” he told the National Executive Council.
Morris said Simpson Miller had indicated that she would steer the party through last Monday’s local government elections, which the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won..
“We should never have treated her that way. All we had to do was wait,” he said, adding “I feel it to the bottom of my heart”.
Simpson Miller had told the National Executive Council that earlier this year, she had signalled to the party “that I wanted to see us through the local government elections.
“There was a reason for that. I never wanted a new leader of this movement to commence their term with an election loss, which we expected in the local government elections.
“I wanted to give that person a clean slate on which to build. I have given over 40 years of selfless and dedicated service to this great party and country. I have been through some tough battles for this party. I have witnessed many Comrades fall.”
Simpson Miller noted that she has been in politics for many years and, while assessing her future as leader of the party, “I have been reflecting on what the past 10 years have meant and mean.
“It has been quite a journey. We have been in Government and in Opposition. In 2012 we had a landslide victory and led a four-year period of some of the most fundamental strides to set the Jamaican economy on the right track. Now we are back in Opposition by the slimmest margin ever.”
What a decade it has been,” she said, adding “we have held together through some very stormy seas”.
The first woman ever to become prime minister here, said “There were times along the way when only a few brave souls were left standing. The only thing we had was courage, but we were fighting for a cause and we were never going to quit on the people.
“In you, my Comrades, I see the best of humanity — you are resilient and hopeful, caring and strong. These virtues give me an unshakable faith in the future of the PNP. With courage and confidence in our ideals, this great party will never tire, … never falter, … and never fail,” she said, adding, it has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as president.
“I have been blessed to represent my party and nation. I am proud of, and happy about, the strong endorsement given to me by the delegates of the party in September. To receive 93 per cent of the votes is indeed an overwhelming endorsement. However, there comes a time when one must assess their political future.”
She told the delegates that she wants the transition “to a new leader to be seamless.
“I will lead the officers to establish clear guidelines and a period for campaigning. There will be sanctions and a ban on public advertisements. Any action by candidates and their supporters to tarnish other Comrades or bring the party into disrepute will be met with sanctions.”
But she warned “those who want leadership must remember that the PNP is bigger than all of us. If we cannot put the party before personal ambitions, we do not deserve to lead this movement.
“I will do everything I can, in the time I have left as leader of this party, to lead our reconnection with the Jamaican people and to influence the return to power of the PNP,” she said, urging the party and supporters to resolve “to do our best to unite the party and build bonds that will never be broken by pettiness and personal ambitions”.
Outgoing PNP General Secretary, Paul Burke, said the party, under Simpson Miller, had “stood in the gap for this movement”.