Holness Becomes Region’s Youngest PM

History was created on Sunday (October 23), when 39-year-old Andrew Michael Holness, was sworn in as Jamaica’s youngest Prime Minister at King’s House.

In a 90-minute ceremony presided over by Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, and attended by some 4,000 guests, the country’s first Jamaican Head of Government born in the post-independence era (1962), took the Oaths of Allegiance and Office, before being presented with the Instrument of Office as the nation’s ninth Prime Minister.

The changing of the guard also saw the Standard of outgoing Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, being lowered and replaced by Mr. Holness’, thereby completing the transition.

Prior to these formalities, Mr. Golding formally tendered his resignation Sunday, and advised the Governor-General of the decision by the majority of Government members of the House of Representatives to endorse Mr. Holness as his successor.

The new Prime Minister had served as Education Minister since the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won the 2007 General Election. He was also the youngest member of Golding’s Cabinet.

Mr. Golding, who assumed the Office of Prime Minister over four years ago, had indicated his intention to demit office in September, stating that the challenges of the last four years had taken a toll and it was appropriate for him to make way for new leadership to continue the programmes of economic recovery and transformation, while mobilising the JLP for the next General Election.

He delivered his last national address on Saturday (October 22). However, Mr. Golding remains Leader of the JLP until the party’s annual conference in November.

Mr. Holness’ meteoric rise to Prime Minister came within 14 years, and has seen him move from Member of Parliament (for West Central St. Andrew), having been first elected to the House of Representatives in 1997, to Opposition Spokesman, to Cabinet Minister and Leader of the House of Representatives.

He has become the third youngest politician in the English-speaking Caribbean to assume the position, and one of three to do so prior to age 40. The others are: Bharrat Jagdeo, who became President of Guyana in 1999, at age 35; and Roosevelt Skerrit, who was installed as Dominica’s Prime Minister in 2004, at age 32.

Mr. Holness, however, currently holds the distinction of being the youngest Head of Government in the English-speaking Caribbean, by 40 days, over Mr. Skerrit.

In his near one hour-long inaugural address, Mr. Holness declared that it was with a deep sense of honour and humility that he took the Oath of Office and that he was cognizant of the “awesome responsibility” he now has.

“I want to express appreciation to all those who have reposed confidence in me. Rest assured I am totally focused on the task of helping the Jamaican people realize their hopes and aspirations. I pledge to serve the people of Jamaica faithfully, with all my energies, all of my heart, mind and soul,” he stated, while paying tribute to his predecessors, particularly Mr. Golding.

The Governor-General congratulated Mr. Holness, urging him to use the confidence reposed in him by his colleagues, and the “tremendous” goodwill of the nation, to “step forward boldly and respond to the needs of the country”.

“Today, you will embark on an epic journey. (You) will be tasked with the responsibility to catapult us into a rapidly changing world, and allow us to be comfortable doing business and interacting, without losing our identity as a unique group of people. We must position and understand ourselves in the context of global economic and geo-political relationships, and leverage recognition and respect, that the world has for us, to our advantage,” he asserted.

Paying tribute to Mr. Golding’s tenure, the Governor-General said the leadership transition symbolized “the end of one cycle and the beginning of another”. He noted that the former Prime Minister provided leadership at a time of global economic challenges.

“You presided over a watershed period in the history of our country, and successfully provided us with a steady footing from which to transition into our 50th year of independence,” he stated.

The Governor-General praised Mr. Golding for endeavouring to do what he felt was in the nation’s best interest, adding that “history will be the judge of whether you succeeded (or not)”.