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Jamaica News - Real Estate - Politics (February 13, 2005)
PJ's choice 
WHILE NOT declaring his choice to succeed him as leader of the People's National Party (PNP), Prime Minister P.J. Patterson points to some critical ideals his successor must have.

Mr. Patterson has stated that the new PNP leader must remain true to, and further promote the core values of the party.

These core party values include '... vision, a commitment to certain fundamental beliefs, such as promoting democracy, securing economic growth, respect for human rights and justice, promoting civil liberties and securing growth in a manner consistent with social equity'.

According to the prime minister, the new leader must also recognise that Jamaica is part of the Caribbean, and even so, "... we are still a sovereign nation."

Mr. Patterson's choice must also promote regional development and seek to improve the quality of life of "all our people."

With this view, the prime minister was not only firm on the qualities he wanted in a successor but admitted that the successor may have to do some things differently.

"I would like and I am confident from those who offer themselves that anybody who is successful, when the time comes, will be equally committed to the pursuit of that mission. They may have to set new priorities, new targets; they may have to adjust the time table for the achievement of certain goals, which are necessary for the future.

"They may articulate that mission statement perhaps, I suspect, in a rather different way from that which I have used, but I don't really have any fear from those who are offering themselves. Whoever emerges will have the commitment and the capacity to take the mission that much further," Mr. Patterson said.

Following the PNP's successful bid for a fourth term in office in 2002, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson announced his intentions to give up the party's leadership before the next general election, constitutionally due in 2007.

Earlier this year, Minister of Information, Burchell Whiteman, hinted that Mr. Patterson could give up the PNP leadership this year.

Among those seeking to replace him as PNP president are Dr. Peter Phillips, national security minister, Portia Simpson Miller, minister of local government, and Dr. Omar Davies, minister of finance and planning.

The charismatic Simpson Miller, who is the minister of local government, community development and sport, has consistently placed ahead of her technocratic rivals in opinion surveys.

Mr. Patterson said on Thursday that he disagreed with the view that she lacked the intellectual capacity to lead either the PNP or the government.

"I have never shared that view," the prime minister said at his official residence. He argued that Mrs. Simpson Miller had the experience to ascend to the leadership positions because she "has been in the government from 1989 (and) has held three separate portfolios."

Mrs. Simpson Miller is the longest-serving vice-president of the ruling PNP, as well as a long-serving member of the Cabinet, since the party's return to power in 1989. Her first ministerial appointment was to the labour and social security portfolio in the Michael Manley administration. She later served as minister of tourism and sport before her current appointment in the P.J. Patterson administration.

Mrs. Simpson Miller lost to Mr. Patterson, then chairman of the party, in the contest to replace Michael Manley as PNP president and prime minister in 1992.

But last week, Mr. Patterson, in attesting that his former rival possessed the leadership qualities to take on the top jobs, as well as the capability to get assistance where necessary said: "I don't doubt that, certainly in terms of leadership, she will bring and be able to attract the necessary skills which are required for success of the administration."

Two of Mrs. Simpson Miller's contenders for presidency Dr. Omar Davies and Dr. Peter Phillips are former university lecturers with training in economics and politics. They are regarded as members of the intelligentsia, believed to be the core constituency of the PNP. In addition to their intellectual background, Dr. Davies has been finance and planning minister for a decade, while Dr. Phillips, the current national security minister, has held portfolio responsibilities for health and construction.

Dr. Karl Blythe, former water and housing minister and a vice-president of the PNP, has also indicated an interest in succeeding Patterson, but has not yet formally launched his candidacy.

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