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Labourites celebrate 75th anniversary at conference today

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, November 18, 2018

GENERAL secretary of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Dr Horace Chang says the party is confident of a very successful 75th anniversary year annual conference scheduled for the National Arena, today.

Thousands of Labourites from across Jamaica are expected to jam the arena for the conference, which kicks off at 10:00 am, the highlight of which will be the main address from party leader and Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Chang told the Jamaica Observer Friday, while there were no private sessions leading up to today's public session, the party has had an “ongoing” conference.

“We have been meeting at area councils and other levels since July, including in Clarendon and Montego Bay, and culminating with last week's meeting of Area Council One (Kingston and St Andrew) in Western Kingston, and we are satisfied that the party is ready for the occasion,” he said.

Dr Chang, who is also minister of national security, said that his main worry was finding enough transportation to take the faithful to the arena.

However, today's meeting is not simply the usual annual conference, as the party is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and is seeking to level up to the challenges of the next 75, according to its leadership.

In tribute to those who have served in the past, the JLP will honouring seven long-standing members for their service and loyalty over the past 75 years.

Dr Chang confirmed Friday that one person will be chosen from each of the party's four Area Councils to be honoured — Hazel Maude Smith (Area Council One); Iona James (Area Council Two); Curtis Nelson (Area Council Three); and Cecil Smith (Area Council Four).

The other three honorees are assistant island supervisor of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) George Nicholas; the party's veteran head of its Belmont Road secretariat Seslyn A Cross; and Ernest Burrell, who also served the secretariat.

The theme for the conference is 'Building a Prosperous Jamaica', and other speakers are expected to include party chairman and Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague; Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Audley Shaw; Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia “Babsy” Grange; Minister of Labour and Social Security, Shahine Robinson; Young Jamaica President Howard Chamberlain; Generation 2000 President Stephen Edwards; and Senator Kerensia Morrison.

There are no challenges to the leadership, with Holness and his four deputy leaders — Desmond Mckenzie (Area Council One); James Robertson (Area Council Two); Rudyard Spencer (Area Council Three); and, JC Hutchinson (Area Council Four) — all expected to be re-elected unopposed.

The area councils are divided as follows: Area Council One — Kingston and St Andrew; Area Council Two — Portland, St Catherine, St Mary and St Thomas; Area Council Three — Clarendon, Manchester, St Ann; and Area Council Four — Hanover, St Elizabeth, St James, Trelawny, and Westmoreland.

Special guests at the conference are expected to include representatives of like-minded regional political parties, among them Shawn Richards, leader of St Kitts and Nevis' 53-year-old People's Action Movement (PAM), a member party of the ruling coalition; the 50-year-old dreadlock Kent Vital, an economist by profession who was elected last year as leader of the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) once led by Eugenia Charles; and Senator Simon Stiell, Minister of Climate Resilience, the Environment, Forestry, Fisheries, Disaster Management and Information in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell in Grenada.

The JLP was launched in 1943 under the leadership of its founder, the late national hero who is the founder of the BITU and Jamaica's first prime minister under independence, Sir Alexander Bustamante.