OCHO RIOS, St Ann — The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) says it will not be business as usual as the party redesigns its work programme to better serve the needs of the Jamaican people.
Officers of the party on Sunday participated in a one-day retreat at the Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios to discuss plans on the way forward.
At the forefront of the discussions were issues affecting the party and its work programme for the coming year, chairman Robert Montague disclosed at a press conference held immediately after the retreat ended.
"We understand, based on the economic and political environment that we operate in, [that] it cannot be business as usual. The... party recognises that in these times, it is going to be business unusual," Montague said.
Party leader Andrew Holness said the retreat was the first in a series of meetings with the newly elected executive of the party.
"In all our deliberations, politically, we are seeing how best as a political party we can make ourselves ready to secure a greater future for our beloved nation," Holness said.
He said one of the party's plans is to reach out to the different sector groups.
"We will be reaching out to all sector groups; all major institutions in general. We will be reaching out to the people of Jamaica to ensure that we are properly representing their views and their issues in the current economic crisis," he said.
"The Jamaica Labour Party, in the coming year, will be ensuring that we have a strong link and an open avenue for discussions with all sector groups — teachers, policemen, civil servants, the public sector in general — so that we can be a strong and representative Opposition," Holness added.
The Opposition leader said the party not only intends to reach Jamaicans living here, but also those in the Diaspora in a significant way.
Meanwhile, General Secretary Dr Horace Chang said the party will be taking specific actions to engage constituents and the wider public and to "listen to their concerns in depth".
As part of the way forward, Dr Chang said he will visit the various constituencies "to ensure that the party's organisation is in shape". Visits to constituencies, he said, will include a membership drive and introducing new elements of communication to ensure members are a part of the decision-making in the party "and not victims of the decision-making of the party."
He also disclosed that the party will also seek to revive affiliate groups, reminding journalists that there are other groups associated with the party outside of the more visible Generation 2000 (G2K) — its young professional arm.
"There are a number of other important affiliates to the party we want to see reactivated and active on the field. We intend to review our area council structure to ensure that it is more manageable and will contribute to the improved organisation of the party, which is critical in going forward," he said.
Dr Chang added that the JLP intends to make the constitution a more modern instrument, which will allow for participation by a broader membership base.
He added that the party's aim is to redesign its programme "to offer and build confidence in the political process by the wider population".
"We are going through a difficult time. There is significant apathy and skepticism relating to the political process and we feel that it is important that the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party begins a process, that not only rebuilds the ...party to make it relevant and acceptable, but to build confidence in our political process and our democracy by the wider public," he added.