Jamaica's First Woman Prime Minister
Jamaicans welcomed their first woman prime minister today:
Portia Simpson Miller, a longtime parliament member who represented some of Jamaica's poorest neighborhoods, faces high expectations for change as she succeeds P.J. Patterson, who stepped down as prime minister after 14 years on the job.
"Because she's a woman from the grass roots the expectation is higher and it's going to be tough," said Rupert Lewis, a political science professor at the University of the West Indies in Kingston.
Simpson Miller, known as Sista P., beat three opponents to take over leadership of the ruling People's National Party last month. Patterson had led his party to three consecutive election victories, the most recent in 2002. But his administration was dogged by corruption allegations, a lagging economy and a homicide rate 10 times that of the United States.
Last year, a record 1,671 homicides occurred on the island of 2.6 million people.
"We have to mobilize every sector of the society against this encroaching evil and wickedness," Simpson Miller said earlier this month at a funeral for six slain members of one family.