BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor - special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
LEADER of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness says Sunday's annual conference of the party at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston will not be about fanfare, but a mission to retake the government, and to do so quickly.
The 69th staging of the conference will not feature the usual thousands of green-clad, bell-ringing, horn-blowing supporters hanging out of moving vehicles as the focus will be on bringing delegates to the table for discussion, following the party's defeat in both the general and the local government elections.
"I am saying to supporters, our workers and our delegates, this year is not the fanfare year. It is not the year for piling on top of the bus and hanging through the windows. This year when you come to conference it is about serious business," Holness said as he addressed a media briefing at the party's Belmont Road headquarters in Kingston yesterday.
According to Holness, this year's conference will be staged with a difference as it will be all about work.
"We have proven that when it comes to mobilisation and fanfare we can bring in the crowds and have a whale of a party, but now is time for serious work," Holness said.
The Opposition leader said the conference will take on a new dimension as given the tight economy and the party's need to continue its introspection, the decision was taken to stage the event over one day instead of the usual two days.
"The intention is not to deprive persons who are interested in coming to see the labour party at work, but what we have done is to focus our audience, "Holness said, explaining further that non-delegates attending the event, would be awarded observer status as only delegates would be allowed to cast a ballot if a vote was to be taken.
The conference centre, he said, was chosen as the party wanted a venue in which the delegates would have the facility to participate in a convention-style discourse. "We want to leave the conference centre with a sense of renewed hope, with a mission that when they return to their community they understand what the Labour Party is going to do to retake the government of this country," Holness said.
According to Holness, this year's conference theme "Vision Focus Build, Connect" communicates exactly what the party needs to do. The party's focus, he added, will be on getting back in the trenches, working and connecting with the people; creating and focusing on a vision, building the institutions to bring that vision to reality and making a soul connection with masses.
As for the assessment into what caused the party's defeats in both elections, Holness said the executive brief of the report from the internal commission should be available today. This is to be followed by the full report which will be ready to be taken to the Central Executive.
"The party is in a continuos search for its own renewal and wherever we see the opportunity to have a discussion with our support base, in terms of items which will form that renewal, we will take an opportunity and the conference is one such," Holness said.
In responding to concerns that the decision to scale down the conference was based on the party's lack of finances, Holness insisted this was not what determined the new look format for the conference.
"Even if we had the finances we would still do the conference this way; finance played a role, but it was not the critical determining factor as I had always wanted to return the party to its base and to give the base the opportunity to confront the leadership," Holness said.
Acting Party Chairman Robert Montague, meanwhile, said it is anticipated that a lot of business will be discussed as there are several issues which requires the assent of the delegates.
"What we are striving to do this weekend is to give our delegates an opportunity to speak to the leadership of the party, because normally it is more the leadership which speaks to delegates," Montague said.
General Secretary Aundre Franklin, in outlining the day's agenda, said seven resource rooms will be created with respective panels focusing on youth, women affairs, local government and urban government issues, agriculture, economy, energy and party reform.
Non-delegates will be allowed to participate in these discussions.
Meanwhile, the conference, will be opened to public for one hour, featuring an addressing from Holness.