The Rt. Hon. Percival James Patterson (1935 - ) - The National Library of Jamaica

The Rt. Hon. Percival James Patterson (1935 - )

Percival James Patterson was born in 1935.  His parents Henry Patterson, a farmer and Ina James, a primary school teacher were both from the parish of Hanover. He was educated at Somerton Primary School, St. James and won a Purscell Trust Scholarship to Calabar High School, from which he graduated in 1953.  From there he went on to the University of the West Indies (UWI) at Mona, and graduated in 1958 with a B.A. (Honours) in English.

He studied Law at the London School of Economics (LSE), where he was awarded the Leverhume Scholarship and the Sir Hughes Parry prize for Excellence in the Law of Contracts.  He graduated from that institution in 1963 with an LL.B.  Mr. Patterson was called to the Bar at Middle Templein 1963 and also admitted to the Jamaican Bar in that year.

P.J. Patterson began political activity at the UWI where he was one of the founders of the Political Club.  As its President, he presided at the first political address given in the Caribbean by the late Dr. Eric Williams, founder of Trinidad and Tobago’s People’s National Movement.

In 1955, Mr. Patterson took part in a UWI project, which brought him into contact with several prominent members of the People’s National Party (PNP).  Also in that year, he made his first appearance as a speaker on a political platform in the election campaign for the candidate for Western Hanover .  After that, political involvement took precedence over every other interest in his life.  On several occasions he even interrupted his academic studies to participate in political activities.

After graduating from the UWI he joined the PNP’s organising staff in 1958.  His early training and service were in St. Thomas, St. Catherine, St. Elizabeth, Manchester and Westmoreland.  He moved on to membership on the National and Executive Councils in 1964.  He was elected a Vice-President of the PNP in 1969 and served as Party Chairman from 1983.

Mr. Patterson’s distinguished Cabinet career began in 1972, with his appointment as Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism.  Since then he served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade (1978-1980); Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development, Planning and Production (1989-1990) and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Planning (1990-1991). He served as Prime Minister until March 2006 when he retired.

He was appointed Prime Minister of Jamaica in March 1992, following his election as President of the PNP, on the retirement of former Prime Minister the late Michael Manley. Mr. Patterson was returned to office following the national elections of 1993, and now has the distinction of being the first Prime Minister to be sworn in for a fourth consecutive term of office, after he led the PNP to victory in the elections of October 2002.

Noted among Mr. Patterson’s list of achievements as Prime Minister, was his decision to make education be Administration’s top priority.  To this end, the largest portions of successive national budgets have been allocated towards the sector.  His goal was to integrate Information Technology throughout all levels of the education spectrum and the wider society.  Mr. Patterson also created the National Commission on Science and Technology in 1993 and was the first to directly link Jamaica’s science and technology initiatives with the nation’s industrial policy.

As Prime Minister, he spearheaded Jamaica ’s cessation of an 18-year borrowing relationship with the International Monetary Fund, which effectively created a platform for Jamaica to once again exercise control over its economic affairs.  Mr. Patterson also promulgated a National Industrial Policy, a blue print for the nation’s growth and development in the 21st century.

The Prime Minister’s social agenda has spawned the creation of a National Land and Shelter Policy and resulted in the accelerated provision of housing solutions for the people of Jamaica.  Special arrangements were made for the elderly and low-income earners to benefit from the National Housing Trust by way of a special low interest rate.  He also conceptualized and implemented the Operation Pride Programme, a comprehensive shelter programme that is helping to regularize informal settlements and fulfill the country’s housing needs.

Mr. Patterson’s tenure witnessed the re-introduction of the National Youth Service, the creation of the Special Training and Empowerment Programme (STEP) and the introduction of the Jamaica Drug for the Elderly Programme.  These programmes are all aimed at assisting the most vulnerable groups in the society, with emphasis on the young and the elderly.  Mr. Patterson’s commitment to the country’s growth and development is underpinned by his insistence upon adherence to democratic principles, integrity in public life and strong ethic and moral principles.

Mr. Patterson is respected worldwide as an astute international statesman who has made a mark in such organisations as the United Nations, the Group of 77, the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, the Association of Caribbean States, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and many others.  He chaired the Group of 15 developing nations (G-15) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).  He also served as Chairman of the Caricom Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations.

  1. J Patterson utilitised his legal and negotiating skills in the international arena, especially as one of the leading architects of the LOME Convention between the ACP states and the European Union which was first signed in 1975.  He was also one of the principal participants in the evolution of the Caribbean Free Trade Area into CARICOM. Mr. Patterson was appointed to the Privy Council and is the recipient of several international awards.  These include:
  • Order of Aguila Aztec, Mexico (1990)
  • Order of Liberator Simon Bolivar (First Class), Venezuela(1992)
  • The Great Cross of the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins, Chile(1992)
  • Order of San Marti, Argentina (1992)
  • Order of Gran Cruz Gonzalo Jiminez de Quesada, Colombia (1994)
  • Order of Fransisco Morazan in the rank of Gran Cruz Placa de Oro, Honduras (1994)
  • Order of Jose Marti, Cuba (1997)Order of the Volta ,Ghana(1999)
  • Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Agricola Medal, awarded in Jamaica (2001)
  • Juan Mora Fernandez, Great Silver Cross, Costa Rica (2001)

The Prime Minister has also been bestowed with academic awards by tertiary institutions worldwide, which include:

  • Honorary Doctor of Letters, Northeastern University, USA (1994)
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws, Brown University, USA (1998)

Mr. Patterson’s interests include jazz, Jamaican music and such spectator sports as cricket, boxing, tennis and track and field.

He has a son, daughter and granddaughter.