Monday, April 22, 2024

Why Obama had no meeting with Holness


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UNITED STATES President Barack Obama was opposed to meeting Jamaica’s Opposition Leader Andrew Holness in a formal setting on his recent visit to the island, the Jamaica Observer has learnt.

As a policy, United States presidents do not meet with heads of opposition parties, as negotiations and discussions regarding that country’s affairs and performance are done purely on a leader-to-leader basis, a political source close to the team that negotiated Obama’s visit to Jamaica told the Sunday Observer recently.

The matter of whether or not Holness, who served as prime minister for a mere two months in 2011, should have met Obama, was first raised by the Opposition leader in Parliament, soon after Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller confirmed an Observer Online story on Tuesday, March 17 that Obama would be visiting Jamaica for the first time since he was elected President of the United States in 2008.

Interestingly, it was the Jamaican Government that wrote to the US authorities, the Sunday Observer was told, requesting that a meeting be held between Obama and Holness. That was flatly dismissed by the US, which responded in writing by citing the fact that the American president does not meet with opposition leaders or opposition candidates for national elections.

Further negotiations centred on the inclusion of Holness resulted in a proposal being made for the 42-year-old Opposition leader to be part of a 30-member group of businessmen who would meet the US president in a general discussion on the Jamaican economy and trade prospects for Jamaican businesses in the United States. That, however, did not materialise, as Obama’s office said that there was not enough time for such a get-together.

“When the itinerary was on the verge of being finalised, the US insisted that there would be no sit-down meeting with Obama and Holness,” the impeccable source informed the Sunday Observer.

“It was then determined that Holness’s contact with Obama would be limited to handshakes at the plane side upon the president’s arrival, and at the wreath-laying ceremony at National Heroes Park,” the source went on.

Holness participated in both events.

One member of the United States mission in Jamaica questioned the approach taken by Holness and the Jamaica Labour Party spokesman for foreign affairs and foreign trade Edmund Bartlett in raising the point of Obama’s visit in “political tones”.

“I think it would have been better if the gentlemen had raised the issue of the Obama visit with our Embassy in Kingston, instead of going public and asking questions of the visit,” the official said on condition that his identity be kept a secret.

Political watchers had also questioned the way in which both JLP bigwigs dealt with the matter, with one even suggesting that the men were attempting to “politicise” Obama’s visit.

Obama was an obvious hit on his visit, with many Jamaicans publicly expressing joy, particularly those who had a chance to be at functions which the US president attended.

The Harvard Law School standout will demit office in January 2017, ending a two-term stint that has so far resulted in major gains for Americans and other nationalities in the areas of health care, education, technology, and a turnaround of the economy to one that is again reflecting strong growth and an increase in employment.



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