Journalism

Four Jamaican Prime Ministers

Portia and a baby

As a news reporter I covered politics every so often and probably a little too reluctantly. That said I was privileged to have covered, however briefly, every Jamaican PM from Seaga to Simpson Miller in the space of two years…

Edward Seaga
It was his last day in parliament and we were seated at Edward Seaga’s breakfast table. After half century in public life FIRST magazine had asked to cover what we assumed to be a historic occasion (no other media had asked). Seaga had said yes and then calmly offered us food and coffee as we sat there that morning watching him make notes ahead of his speech. We politely declined his offer; feeling like it would have interfered with a private moment we were only there to witness. 

PJ Patterson 
Don’t believe I ever asked PJ Patterson so much as one question but I vividly remember standing close to the speaker’s podium at some PCJ event when I saw his eyes scanning the Gleaner ID hung around my neck. Whatever it was Patterson was speaking about soon turned to a story he had read in that day’s paper, my story, and the problems he had with it. Patterson never singled me out – perhaps because the dark shade of red my face was turning must have been satisfaction enough – but the man’s attention to detail was impressive.

Portia Simpson Miller
The first time I met Portia Simpson Miller she closed the door of her ministerial vehicle on my question. It was during the NSWMA scandal and the then local government minister was leaving the Pegasus having just delivered a speech priming her campaign for the PNP presidency. It was much more straightforward when I covered her the weekend of the presidential win when she was a lot more available and the questions less hostile given the occasion. Above all there was a national reading day assignment at a school in her constituency. A mother plumped a crying baby in her hands. The mother  disappeared for a couple of minutes before she returned beaming with satisfaction at her now becalmed child. It was a strange kind of vulnerability; this confused PM and a stranger’s baby but it demonstrated the outsize impact her personality rather than policy can have on the public.

Bruce Golding
His predecessors endured the pressure that comes with the top job but no other PM had it like Bruce Golding did with Dudus/Manatt. Going back to his first week as MP for West Kingston, having just  succeeded Seaga; two bodies were found dumped and burnt on Roses’s Lane – a crime for which PNP don Donald ‘Zeeks’ Phipps was later jailed. Kingston Mayor and local councillor Desmond McKenzie was pretty much chaperoning Golding that day. The new MP looked pretty shellshocked and when I addressed the microphone to him his soundbite assumed that I was from the foreign press; something about the situation and its connection to the legacy of colonialism. The occasion must have been equally overawing for the both of us – a policeman had to ask me to move away from where I was standing in the blood trail.

Re-posted from my old blog. Originally posted December 8, 2011.

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