Jamaica Prime Minister NO SHOW at Jamaica Diaspora Event
by Jason Walker
I know when you hear the words “No Show” they are normally associated with entertainers and concerts not Prime Ministers especially when it involves important audiences like the Diaspora. Well that is essentially what occurred on December 3 2011 in the state of Florida when Jamaican Florida Commissioner Dale Holness had arranged for a meeting between the very new Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness (Distant cousins) and the Jamaican Diaspora.
Let’s do a little a background Prime Minister (PM) Holness was sworn in as PM on the 23rd of October 2011 and as such became the youngest PM in Jamaican history. This brought intrigue and excitement in several quarters, and also extreme curiousity. There were questions throughout the Diaspora as to who exactly is Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness as a large percentage of the Diaspora was very unfamiliar with the new PM. To add to the fascination, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding had suddenly resigned amid a series of scandals that rocked the ruling party, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). To add to this earlier this year members of the Diaspora had shown a very public concern about the treatment of the Diaspora by the Jamaican government led by the JLP.
With the aforementioned reasons amongst others many members of the Diaspora jumped at the chance to meet the new PM face to face, they came from all over Florida and as far as the neighbouring states to Florida. The event was to start at 3:30 PM in the very large Christway Baptist Church in Miramar Florida. Hundreds of Jamaicans had already begun filling up the venue, surrounding parking lots were packed. Jamaicans of all stripes, classes and other strata were streaming in. Some identified themselves as PNP (People’s National Party the opposition) supporters, Independents and JLP supporters (wearing green in some part of their dress), the majority though seemed to be made up of independents who just love Jamaica. The general mood was they wanted to find out who their new PM was, to share Diaspora concerns and to hear the PM’s vision for a Jamaica.
3:30 came and went, 4:00 came and went and there was no Prime Minister. The audience was told repeatedly that the PM was on the way. Persons such as G2K vice president Sherman Calnek and the hilarious community member Easton Lee went on the podium to fill the time. Right before 5:00 it was announced that we would be hearing from the PM calling in on his SAT phone calling from his plane as it was taking off from Jamaica, yes I said taking off from Jamaica minutes to 5:00 when the event started at 3:00. The PM apologized for not being there and that he would be on the way. It was announced that he should be there soon. After 6:30 with no PM in sight Diaspora members began leaving in disgust, so disappointed that a promise made by the new Prime Minister was treated with such disrespect. Soon after when most of the Jamaicans from the Diaspora had left the event was cancelled.
Before the cancellation was made known, it was announced that later that night there was a fundraiser for the Jamaica Labour Party election campaign that persons could attend and meet the PM there. Understandably only JLP supporters were interested in such an activity while the invitation and no show left a bitter taste in people’s mouths.
Kudos must be given to Commissioner Dale Holness for arranging this event, for Jamaicans throughout the Diaspora still want to know who the man who is running the country they love is. Former Prime Ministers Michael Manley, Edward Seaga, PJ Patterson, Portia Simpson-Miller and Bruce Golding have a strong and positive record when it comes to making time for and honouring meeting engagements with the Diaspora. From here on in, if Prime Minister Holness wishes to interact with the Jamaican Diaspora, market to them and have them invest in Jamaica as he shared in a later interview, he is going to have to show some priority with the Diaspora when it comes to his scheduling. What happened on Saturday has been taken as a slap in the face by several who attended, even those who identified themselves as JLP supporters looked stunned and definitely disappointed as they left.