Fitz Jackson rejects junior minister offer BY INGRID BROWN Senior staff reporter browni@jamaicaobserver
MEMBER of parliament for South St Catherine Fitz Jackson yesterday confirmed that he flatly rejected an offer to serve as a state minister in the Portia Simpson Miller-led Administration, but would only say his reason for doing so was that it was not a position he found desirable.
"What was offered to me was not of particular interest," Jackson said.
Jackson would also not say if he believed he was sidelined for the position of a full Cabinet minister, having served as a state minister for seven years, because of the role he played as campaign manager for Dr Peter Phillips, who in 2008 unsuccessfully challenged Simpson Miller for the People's National Party's (PNP) top job in what was a bitterly contested leadership race.
"I don't know, and I don't have any reason to say if it did or did not," Jackson told the Observer.
Jackson explained that last Thursday morning — a day before the ministers were sworn in after the PNP won the December 29 general election — he was called by Phillips who offered him the position as state minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.
"I told Dr Phillips, the offer was not one I found particularly desirable or one that I welcomed," Jackson said.
Phillips, who last served as minister of national security, was on Friday named finance minister, while former minister of health Horace Dalley was appointed minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance with responsibility for the public service in the 20-member Cabinet. A state minister has, however, not been named to that ministry.
In 2008, immediately following the bitter leadership challenge in which Simpson Miller emerged victorious over Phillips, Jackson resigned from the positions of deputy leader of opposition business in the House of Representatives and the PNP's deputy spokesman on finance and the public service.
Quizzed yesterday as to whether he would have preferred to have been offered the role of a full minister, given his past experience serving as a junior minister, Jackson said "the choosing of the executive is the prerogative of the prime minister, so if you are offered something, if you don't want it you can either accept or decline, and I declined".
According to Jackson, he had no ambition for any particular office, as the only job he was ever interested in was to be the MP of South St Catherine and was elated to have won that seat in the election by one of the biggest margins ever.
Jackson, who has represented the constituency for the past 18 years, defeated his opponent, former Mayor Keith Hinds, by a margin of 3,274. In the September 2007 general election he won the seat with a margin of 1,420 votes.
Jackson pointed out that he has always been able to balance his ministerial duties with being an effective MP, hence the reason he has consistently retained his seat.
But for now, Jackson insists that he is satisfied with being an effective backbencher and will continue to give of his best on any parliamentary committee to which he is appointed.
"I am going to just continue doing what I was doing because nothing has changed," he insisted.
Jackson said the prime minister has the benefit of a number of young, bright persons to serve in the administration and expressed confidence that they will do well.
"I am happy to be in the company of this crop, and I look forward to a vibrant Parliament," he said.