Portia Simpson Miller

I recently learned that Jamaica’s current Prime Minister is a woman.   On 29 December 2011 she was elected as Prime Minister of Jamaica for a second time and sworn in at King’s House in Kingston, Jamaica on 5 January 2012.   In her speech to a crowd of 10,000, she announced her plans to break ties with the monarchy.  She had nothing but positive things to say about Queen Elizabeth.  “I love the Queen. She is a beautiful lady, and apart from being a beautiful lady, a wise lady and a wonderful lady.”  However, the time has come to “initiate the process of detachment from the monarchy.”  

Simpson Miller has endorsed replacing the position of the monarchy with an elected head of state.  She is the second head of government to openly endorse republicanism after Percival Patterson.  Simpson Miller has reportedly pledged to transform Jamaica into a republic as part of the fiftieth anniversary of the island’s independence which will be celebrated this year.

Simpson Miller was born on 12 December 1945 in Wood Hall, St. Catherine Parish. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in public administration from Union Institute & University, a private college specialising in distance learning programs. The UIU later awarded her an honorary doctorate of humane letters.  She completed the Executive Programme for Leaders in Development at the prestigious John Kennedy School of Government, HarvardUniversity.

Her political career is just as impressive.   It began in Local Government in 1974 as a Councillor of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC).  Simpson Miller made the transition to the House of Representatives when she was elected Member of Parliament for South Western St. Andrew in 1976. She was appointed a Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister in 1977.

Portia Simpson Miller has the distinction of serving as the first female Vice-President of the People’s National Party, a position she held between 1978 and 2006.  She was President of the People’s National Party Women’s Movement from 1983 to 2006. In February 2006, Portia Simpson Miller became the first woman to be elected as head of the People’s National Party.

She took the Oath of Office as Prime Minister on March 30, 2006, becoming the first female head of government of the nation and the third in the Anglophone Caribbean following Eugenia Charles of Dominica and Janet Jagan of Guyana. In appointing her first cabinet following her swearing-in, she also assumed the portfolio of defence minister.  During her first term in office, Simpson Miller formally endorsed civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens during an election campaign making her the first head of state in Jamaican history to do this. 

Simpson Miller’s love for sports and Jamaican athletes led her to use her influence to motivate the Jamaican sporting community and promote sports as a social unifying force.  In her role as Sports Minister 1989 to 2007, she was instrumental in creating partnerships between government agencies and the private sector, to support sports development inJamaica.  She helped to establish the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) designed to provide financial assistance to national sporting associations, as well as emergency financial assistance to national and international-level athletes.

As Minister of Tourism, Simpson Miller was the leading architect of Jamaica’s Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development. The plan sets the strategic policy framework for the expansion of the country’s tourism sector.  She worked to deepen community participation and involve communities in policy decision which led to fundamental reforms in local government and the subsequent establishment of thePortmoreMunicipality, with the election of the first and only directly elected Mayor inJamaicaand the English-speaking Caribbean. 

As Parliamentary representative for the urban constituency of South Western St. Andrew, Simpson Miller has been passionately campaigning on behalf of the poor.  She has also been consistently advocating for urban renewal and community development.  

She was named Person of the Year by The Gleaner and Observer in the Gleaner awards 2011.

On a personal note, Simpson Miller is married to Errald Miller, formerly CEO of Cable & Wireless Jamaica Ltd.  On 29 May 2006 she was vested with the Jamaican Order of the Nation, giving her (and her husband) the style “The Most Honourable” 

Notes to Women congratulates Portia Simpson Miller for her big election victory.  We wish her success as she tackles the country’s economy, debt and unemployment rate.  We hope to celebrate with the people of Jamaica as the nation becomes a republic.

 “After being tested and tempered, I stand before you today a stronger and better person prepared to be of service to my country and people”

“My administration will work tirelessly that while we try to balance the books we balance people’s lives as well.”

“We will seek to make this country one of brothers and sisters, not of rivals and victims.”

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portia_Simpson-Miller; http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/01/07/jamaica-monarchy.html; http://www.caribbeanelections.com/knowledge/biography/bios/simpson_miller_portia.asp; http://finance.yahoo.com/news/simpson-miller-sworn-2nd-time-141137213.html

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