BY INGRID BROWN Associate Editor -- Special Assignment email@example.com
THE People's National Party (PNP) is to embark on a major recruitment drive as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations in an effort to encourage more young people to be a part of the political process.
According to former Prime Minister and co-chair of the party's anniversary celebrations committee PJ Patterson, it is most important that the bright, young people of this nation get involved in the political process, even if it is not with the PNP.
"I don't expect we are going to corner all the young people... but what I don't want is the young people of this country to surrender the future of the country to others who cannot make the quality contribution that is necessary for the development of the nation," Patterson told a group of Jamaica Observer senior journalists during a special sitting of the Observer Monday Exchange held at his home in St Andrew.
The former prime minister stressed that it is very important that this generation does not regard politics as something that is filthy, and not to be associated with for fear of being tainted, but rather be inspired to use political engagement as an instrument for nation building.
"It is important for the nation to benefit from young, creative minds, who do not see politics as corrupt or dirty, nothing to do with them, but something which is a vehicle for the progress and development of the nation and themselves," Patterson said.
The party, he noted, has an outreach committee which is charged with examining ways to encourage persons from various sectors, such as the business community and tertiary institutions, to become party members.
Member of the anniversary steering committee Delano Franklyn, who was at the Exchange, said the PNP is concerned about the engagement of young people who are of the opinion that politics is not the best thing to get involved in.
"There is a feeling that once you get involved with it, your life becomes totally exposed and you have the tendency to be corrupt. In other words, you are going to benefit from the trough and that is the reason you are getting involved in it," Franklyn argued.
"One of the things we will have to do is, apart from inviting young people to come in, we will also have to go to them, and the best place is through the school system," he added.
Fellow steering committee member Imani Duncan-Pryce said the PNP will identify the particular interests, problems and needs of the groups they are targeting, and see how solutions can be reached through discussion.
One example of this, she said, will be an energy forum to be held in Montego Bay this May, which is organised by the party's policy commission in association with that city's Chamber of Commerce.
"This gives an in to the business community. It will be bringing them relevant policy ideas and [an] approach to energy to engage them around, not just about election votes, but practical solutions that will impact their businesses," she said.
Meanwhile, Patterson said the main reason for his co-chairing the anniversary committee with Prime Minister and PNP President Portia Simpson Miller is to ensure that she has all the time she needs to deal with national issues.
"So I don't want to hear anybody asking how we can be celebrating in the middle of such crisis," Patterson said.
He explained further that the activities -- under the theme 'Honouring our past, a powerful foundation for today and tomorrow' -- will ensure that the political awareness of where the party is coming from and where it needs to go is brought home to all members at different levels.
He noted also that the planned activities will provide an opportunity for the "renewal, re-energising and bringing into the party, mainstream persons who are supporters but not members".
The slew of activities for the 75th anniversary include a lecture on the life and times of the party's founding leader Norman Washington Manley, as well as a series of regional activities such as rallies, dinners, sports competitions, family days, and cultural activities.
Persons who have served the organisation with distinction will also be honoured at regional executive conferences.
There will also be an essay and poster competition, a documentary on the history of the party, the establishment of a party museum, as well as the publication of a conference magazine.
On the week of September 18, which is the actual anniversary of the party's inception, the event will begin with a church service.
This year's annual party conference, which will be held over four days, will include the commemoration of the party's launch at the Ward Theatre.
Patterson explained that there will also be international speakers at the start of the conference and the gala dinner.
"We hope by then to prepare 'Declaration 75', which sets out what has been achieved, [the party's] purpose and intent for the next 25 years," he said.