Jamaica: Portia leaves April 2

Jamaica Observer:-HATFIELD, Manchester —Amid an air of gloom and unease, long-awaited dates for departure of Portia Simpson Miller as president of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) as well as a delegates’ vote next month for her replacement were announced here yesterday.

Though Simpson Miller addressed the conference indicating her imminent departure, it was General Secretary Julian Robinson who told National Executive Council (NEC) members at a closed meeting, and then journalists, that a special delegates conference to select Simpson Miller’s replacement as party president will be held on March 26, 2017.

Robinson said Simpson Miller will demit office as Opposition leader on April 2. Before that she will make her presentation to the parliamentary budget debate as Opposition leader. Simpson Miller, 71, will continue as Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Western.

Former Finance Minister Peter Phillips, the only one thus far to have put himself forward as a candidate for PNP leadership, is widely expected to be unopposed as the delegates’ choice to replace Simpson Miller. Nominations open today and will close on Friday at midday, Robinson said.

Carefully shepherded to and from the meeting by aides, Simpson Miller did not speak with journalists who were gathered from early at Hatfield Primary and Junior High.

After the meeting Phillips rejected suggestions that the transition process had taken too long.

“No. It is what it is, and this is the right time because it is the time,” Phillips told the

Journalists on the outside straining to hear the Opposition leader as she addressed party executives in the closed meeting discerned a sense of discontent on her part as she reflected on her service over 40 years to party and country. She entered politics as a councillor in 1974, and has been president of the PNP since the departure of P J Patterson in 2006. She was prime minister from 2006 until the PNP’s defeat by the Jamaica Labour Party in September 2007, and again served in that capacity following victory at the polls in December 2011 until defeat last February.

Immediately after the meeting, party stalwart Dr DK Duncan — a former MP, general secretary of the 1970s, and Cabinet minister, confirmed Simpson Miller’s discontent.