The 39-year-old Andrew Michael Holness, who became the country’s youngest prime minister last Sunday, said Jamaica is yearning for a new type of politics which, he believes, can only be accomplished if the government and the opposition work together.
“Zones of political exclusion are incompatible with freedom and aspects of our politics are an affront to liberty. It is time to end garrison politics,” he said in his inaugural speech as head of government.
“This will not happen overnight, and it should not happen by force. There must be consensus on the way in which this is done. Both political parties have it within them to mutually agree to end the social construct of the garrison,” he said.
Holness said he will contact Opposition Leader Portia Simpson-Miller to discuss “this important measure of coordinating access to closed communities for representatives of differing political persuasions.
“Hopefully, this small step will lead to other steps that will eventually remove garrisons from our political landscape.”
On the issue of government debt, the former education minister said that some of the proceeds of 40 years of borrowing have leaked due to corruption, poor management, bureaucracy and some have been wasted on ill-conceived ideas.
He said attempts are underway to enforce fiscal discipline by managing expenditure including through the management of the wage bill which, he said, is a vexing issue.
“While we ask public sector workers and their unions to moderate wages, the government must reduce wastage, inefficient bureaucracy, corruption and profligacy in its own house as part of expenditure management,” he said.
Holness replaced Bruce Golding who officially resigned Sunday, three weeks after he announced he would step down.
In his last national broadcast on the eve of his departure Golding, 63, said he was demitting office with strong emotions.
However, he said, the emergence of a new leader brings with it new hope and great expectations and he urged the country to unify.
He also noted that the leadership transition has been “virtually seamless”, as the majority of parliamentarians and the Jamaica Labour Party “have coalesced” behind Holness “as the choice to lead the country.
“No government, whether led by me, Andrew (Holness) or anyone else, can do it alone. Our chances of success lie in our ability to set aside our differences, to find unity despite our diversity and to coalesce behind a common set of objectives and the strategies to achieve them,” Golding said.
“Our competitive political process does not encourage that, but it can and must be made to facilitate it. Vested interests must be submerged into the common interest, so that we can move forward, in single formation with a single purpose, to make Jamaica a better place for all of us to live. We must march into the future, not let the future take us by surprise.”
Holness was endorsed as the JLP candidate to contest the West Central St. Andrew constituency in the 1997 General Elections, which he won to become the area’s Member of Parliament and, at 25 years old, the youngest MP that year. Between 1999 and 2007, he served as opposition spokesperson on land and development; housing and education.
He successful contested the 2002 election to hold on to his West Central St. Andrew seat, and was appointed education minister when the Golding government took the reins of power following the 2007 general elections, a position he held until his elevation to the top job. He also has the distinction of being the youngest person appointed a Cabinet minister by Golding.