March 30, 2006

Jamaica’s first female prime minister takes office

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) - Veteran politician Portia
Simpson Miller was sworn in as prime minister of Jamaica on
Thursday, becoming the first woman to lead the Caribbean
island's government.

"A little girl from rural Jamaica has become prime
minister; a true manifestation of a Jamaican dream," Simpson
Miller told a crowd of about 6,000 people on hand for her
swearing-in ceremony.

Her remarks came during a lavish ceremony at King's House,
the home of Jamaica's governor general, where she referred to
some of the problems, including violent crime and poverty,
afflicting her country of about 2.7 million people.

"We all have a responsibility to lift up the poor and the
downtrodden," she said.

The 60-year-old Simpson Miller, who has strong grass-roots
appeal, served as Cabinet minister for local government,
community development and sports until earlier on Thursday. She
has been a member of parliament since 1989.

Simpson Miller won a special election to replace former
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson as head of the ruling People's
National Party in February. Under Jamaica's parliamentary
democracy, the head of the ruling party becomes prime minister.

Patterson became prime minister in 1992 following the
resignation of the late Michael Manley.

Simpson Miller was expected to name a Cabinet on Friday.
General elections in Jamaica are constitutionally due by
October 2007.