A mature JLP critical for a stable democracy

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

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Anyone who cherishes the preservation of our democracy would have felt a sense of relief at the maturity displayed by the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) during its internal elections on Sunday.

That the JLP was able to fill posts in its leadership ranks without rancour is highly commendable, given that party's penchant for implosion on such occasions in the past.

Going into Sunday's elections, the JLP would have been aware that it was being closely monitored by the public, especially after the controversy created by the selection of its four deputy leaders at the party's scaled-down annual conference last month.

It is therefore obvious that the party's top brass went to great lengths to ensure that the election process on Sunday was smooth and transparent, as it is necessary for the JLP to settle down and prepare itself to again take the reins of Government, if and when the electorate so desires.

That much was signalled yesterday by Senator Robert Montague, who was elected Sunday as the party's chairman. "The JLP has now begun the process of putting forward a credible alternative to the Government, and we will be having a retreat pretty soon to discuss those matters," he was reported as saying in yesterday's edition of this newspaper.

Mr Andrew Holness, the JLP and Opposition leader, offered a similar assurance, telling the country at a news conference on Sunday that the party is in a rebuilding phase, and that it has managed to do so in such a way as to reassure Jamaicans that the party is serious about the challenges that it faces, and that it is capable of managing those challenges.

For us, though, the most encouraging pronouncement by Mr Holness on Sunday was that the JLP engaged in soul-searching to determine whether the party was being true to the principles upon which it was founded. That, we believe, can only redound to the JLP's benefit, as long as those principles are embraced by all the party's members and result in Jamaica's growth and development.

Mr Holness has told us that this soul-searching will continue, in terms of reforming the JLP's organisational structure. We suggest that even as it implements that reform the JLP should fashion a clear vision for the country and share that vision with the populace as it takes to the field, as announced by Mr Holness, to "interface with the people of Jamaica".

It will not be easy for the JLP to bridge the credibility gap between the electorate and politicians, especially as that gap has been widened by the Government's untimely acquisition and strong defence of the purchase of 16 expensive sport utility vehicles for Cabinet ministers, at a time when it was prepping the country for tough economic decisions, some related to a new pact with the International Monetary Fund.

Still, the JLP will have to convince the public that it will be fiscally prudent whenever it is next called upon to govern.

It is with that in mind that we expect the JLP will give serious thought to the report of its independent Strategic Review Commission, appointed after the party suffered two humiliating electoral defeats in December 2011 and March 2012, to determine the reasons for the low voter turnout in both polls and to format strategies to convert dissatisfaction into support for the party.




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