BY CONRAD HAMILTON Sunday Observer senior reporter email@example.com
INTENSE efforts are underway to strengthen the youth groups within the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) which just over a month ago declared that its campaign for a return to Jamaica House was underway.
At the party's annual conference in November, JLP Leader Andrew Holness told party supporters that he had no intention of waiting another five years, given the dismal performance of the Portia Simpson Miller-led People's National Party (PNP) administration.
Spurred on by that pronouncement, well-placed JLP officials have indicated that major initiatives are underway to beef up the youth arm of the party in order to attract more young people.
Generation 2000 (G2K), the 13-year-old youth affiliate at the forefront of the last general election campaign, was dealt a humiliating blow after party insiders joined other critics who argued that the uncharitable advertising campaign that targeted then Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller contributed to the party's demise at the polls, as many Jamaicans were turned off by its tone.
Disillusioned by the electoral defeat, some members of the group said goodbye to party politics and months later, G2K's president Delano Seiveright announced his decision to step down.
Nearly a year since the December 29 battering of the JLP at the polls, young attorney and new president of G2K, Floyd Green is spearheading efforts to make the party more appealing to youth from all socio-economic and occupational groupings.
According to him, the process of recruiting persons to join the G2K has not been difficult as many young professionals who did not support the JLP in the last general election are now realising that they made a huge mistake.
Green endorsed claims by other officials of his party who say the Simpson Miller administration has made life increasingly difficult for many Jamaicans.
"People are seeing that it does make a difference who is in charge, who is the government. A lot of young professionals thought all politicians were the same, and at the time of the last election, believed we wouldn't be worse off if another party was elected. With the future of our country taking such a dramatic turn this year alone, people are saying it does make a difference and they are saying the best leaders ought to be in leadership," said Green, indicating that G2K's membership had swelled.
"We launched our first new chapter under my watch in St Mary earlier this year and that was a new chapter that was brought together after the electoral defeat. My experience has been that people have been calling, have been sending us emails that they want to get involved and they are coming forward," Green added as his party plays catch-up to the well established youth structure that has been a feature of the governing PNP.
"We think its G2K's role to get to the large number of apathetic Jamaicans who have no faith in politics and the politics of their politicians. We intend going forward to be all over the country. We have steering committees and chapters in every parish because we believe there are young professionals all over the country who would want to contribute. We also will be doing a lot more in terms of our outreach activities and we want to be in the communities touching lives and helping the less fortunate," said Green.
Green also told the Sunday Observer that G2K will be broadening its base in response to the need to create opportunities for more mature persons who want to support the JLP.
"We have to expand our spheres of influence, widen the base — even though sometimes when you say 'base', people think it's diehard supporters — but I mean widening the scope of people that you are attracting to the party. G2K was formed to fill a gap and it has done so creditably over the years, but there is still a lot more to be done."
He emphasised that the organisation was set up to attract young professionals who wanted to contribute to the political process through the G2K.
"Part of the problem is that if you reach 40, or thereabouts and have not transitioned into hardcore politics, the party might lose that talent. So I think one of the things to do is to set up various think tanks to allow these people to play a part in idea generation," said the young attorney, who said these plans have been shared with the party leader and new general secretary, Dr Horace Chang.
Green, along with other officials of the party, also disclosed that plans are in the works to revitalise the party's youth arm — Young Jamaica — which has been operating beneath the radar for some time.