NEW ROAD AHEAD

Newly-elected Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has urged nationals to put aside their political difference and join her People’s National Party (PNP) in a building a new Jamaica.

According to preliminary results, Simpson-Miller, the first ever woman to head of a government in Jamaica, led the PNP to a resounding 41-22 landslide victory in Thursday’s general elections over the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). The elections were called one year ahead of the constitutional deadline.

“This leader with her team will be working with all Jamaicans as one Jamaican family as we shape the future of Jamaica together,” she told supporters celebrating the party’s return to power after it was defeated in the 2007 general election.

In a victory speech interspersed with music, Simpson-Miller said that she had already received congratulatory messages from outgoing Prime Minister Andrew Holness and some leaders within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping.

Holness, 39, the youngest ever head of government here, now has the dubious record of being the only prime minister to serve one term in office since the island attained political independence from Great Britain in 1962.

“Starting tomorrow, we will be rebuilding. Our campaign for the next government starts tomorrow,” he said in conceding defeat. We are determined to serve the people of the country in the best way possible.

“It is clear to us, however, that the people of the country still have certain concerns apparently about the Jamaica Labor Party, and we will be reflecting on those,” he added.

Simpson-Miller 66, who served as prime minister from 2006-2007, when then prime minister PJ Patterson resigned from active politics, thanked “everybody who played a role in ensuring the PNP’s victory.

“I am humbled by the support of the Jamaican people and I ask you to ensure that you greet Jamaica labor Party supporters with love,” she said.

“I want to thank all the voters of Jamaica,” she added, stating that they had “kept our democracy alive and well today”.

Simpson-Miller, affectionately referred to as “Sista P” and “Comrade Leader,” faces deep problems as she takes over the government, with debt running at about 130 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and unemployment at more than 12 per cent.

She said her administration will be seeking to renegotiate the multi-billion dollar Standby Agreement (SBA) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“We have plenty of work ahead of us,” Simpson-Miller said. “You will hear from us soon as we move to put our team in place,” urging nationals “to work with us as we move this country forward together.

“We will tell you as it is, we will hide nothing from you,” the new prime minister added. “When it is tough and rough we will let you know, when it is easy we will let you know.

Simpson-Miller said her administration would be working with Jamaicans in the Diaspora to “move Jamaica forward.

“We are going to unite and move Jamaica as it has never seen before,” she said.

Simpson-Miller has been a PNP stalwart since she was first elected to Parliament in 1976, becoming a Cabinet member in 1989.

Born in rural poverty and grew up in a Kingston ghetto, not far from the crumbling “concrete jungle,” popularized by the legendary Bob Marley, Simpson-Miller as long been admired by supporters.

Her party, which experimented with democratic socialism in the 1970s, is still perceived as more focused on social programs than the slightly more conservative JLP.

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