AUDLEY Shaw last night officially presented opening arguments in his bid to head the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), saying that the Opposition needed "strong and decisive leadership" that can effectively articulate a vision for the country.
Using the platform of a national broadcast, Shaw — one of the JLP's four deputy leaders — said he would, in another two weeks, formally launch his campaign to unseat JLP and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness at the party's annual conference scheduled for November.
"On the 29th of this month, there will be a formal launch of my campaign for leadership, at which time the details of the plans to rebuild our party will be presented, along with the policy framework and vision that will guide us into the next general elections when we form the next Government," Shaw said.
He assured the country that his campaign would avoid negativity and personal attacks, focusing instead on "ideas, plans, programmes and vision", which, he suggested, were lacking in the current leadership of the party.
Shaw's announcement came at the end of three weeks of what he called "consultations" with Labour Party delegates, civil society and business groups across the island, triggered, he said, by consistent appeals from supporters for him to contest the leadership.
Those appeals, he said, had their genesis in concerns for the way the JLP was being led.
"Throughout my consultations, persons have expressed numerous concerns about the state of our country and their alarm at the lack of assertiveness of the Jamaica Labour Party in keeping the present Government accountable, and further, in our inability to present ourselves as a viable government-in-waiting," Shaw said in his broadcast last night.
"The consultations also revealed that there is a serious lack of motivation and low morale among our party members and functionaries, which is symptomatic of the apathetic state of the wider society to our political affairs," he added.
"The times we live in require greater participation and re-engagement of the people around the decisions that have to be made to take the country out of the social and economic quagmire in which we find ourselves," Shaw said.
In an apparent attempt to strengthen his argument that the Opposition needed to be more forceful in its monitoring of the Government, Shaw said that unemployment was unacceptably high and was close to 40 per cent among young people, despite the fact that the bulk of our population is in the most productive years of their lives.
"Cheap imported chicken back is short while chicken farms remain idle and underutilised," he charged. "The Jamaican dollar is at its lowest in the country's history, trading at well over J$102 to one United States dollar, sending prices through the roof."
He pointed as well to the most recent crime data showing that an average of four persons were being murdered daily and took the Government to task for developments in the education and health-care sectors.
"Cost-sharing in school has been reintroduced through the back door, hospitals are running dangerously low on critical supplies, and while all of this is happening the people believe that the leadership in the Government has gone to sleep and the Opposition has done little to wake them up or has failed to effectively articulate its vision of a credible alternative government," Shaw said.
He said the constant message he received from the consultations was that the JLP needed to be rebuilt in order to effectively re-engage the Jamaican people and convince them to buy into the party's vision.
"Our mission must now be to rebuild our great party so that we can form [the] Government again at the next general elections, and ensure the maintenance of a strong political base that can support more than one term in Government in order to allow the JLP to fulfil its mission of rebuilding the Jamaican economy over a sustained period of time and providing hope, opportunity and love to all Jamaicans," he said.
Shaw also used the broadcast to trumpet his achievements as finance minister in the JLP Government that held office between 2007 and 2011, as well as his record of service in the Edward Seaga-led JLP Administration of the 1980s.