JLP execs deny paying supporters to show up, rebuff corruption accusations
Members of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) have dismissed as “absolute foolishness” the suggestion that supporters are paid to attend annual general conferences.
That was the response of the party’s General Secretary Dr Horace Chang when the question was posed by the media during a JLP Editors’ Forum at the party’s Belmont Road headquarters in New Kingston on Thursday.
Chang noted that while lunch is usually provided, he insisted that nobody is paid to attend the conference.
His party colleague, Robert Morgan, also contended that it was a nonsensical notion that people are paid to attend, arguing that, “We would be bankrupt as a party, because we couldn’t afford to pay 300 people to come to conference.”
Morgan said that Members of Parliament (MP) have been getting calls from as far back as July from people overseas seeking details about the exact date for the conference so they can make arrangements to take time off from work in order to attend.
Deputy leader of the JLP, Desmond McKenzie, further argued that there was a significant number of supporters who have their own mode of transportation who turn up by themselves, not motivated by anybody to attend.
He added that there were about 10 people from his constituency who have travelled from overseas to attend the conference.
JLP Chairman Robert Montague, however, pointed out that there is a whole ecosystem around a conference, because the event does not end when the prime minister walks out of the arena, noting that people look forward to the camaraderie afforded by the event, including after-conference discussions, parties, lyming, and sharing meals.
“The whole conference is not just about the speech, it’s about the conversations, its about the socialising, is about the family coming together, it’s about persons who every rural MP has this problem that you are catering for say 500 persons from your constituency, provide lunch, and then 200 more just turn up,” he said.
Meanwhile, in response to the perception that political parties are corrupt, Morgan staunchly defended the transparency of the JLP Government.
“If you look at the history, the Jamaica Labour Party has been one of the most transparent and accountable political movements since Independence. Many of our accountability institutions that have been created in Jamaica have been created under the Jamaica Labour Party,” he said.
“If you think about the Independent Commission of Investigations (Indecom), when the human rights groups and citizens were complaining about the state of the police force we created Indecom and not just Indecom, but under the Jamaica Labour Party you have seen a transformation of the police force. You’re not hearing about states of public emergency (SOEs) and people’s doors being kicked down. When was the last time you saw a demonstration saying we want justice because there was police brutality all across the island? When you think about the Integrity Commission, the Integrity Commission [Act] is a law that we passed; we fund it. There is no question about the funding — over a billion dollars annually — $8 billion so far,” he said.
Morgan further pointed out that based on Transparency International’s corruption perception index, the JLP Government, over the last six years, has a better ranking than any other Government since Independence.
“Whenever questions are raised in the country about the actions or omissions of the party and people in the party, we hold ourselves accountable…I think one of the things we have to recognise [is that] people expect more from the JLP because people believe in the JLP as being a better Government for the country. So because people have such high expectations of us, sometimes we are pressured to act in a better way,” he said.
“The new generation of political leaders in the JLP — I’m not corrupt. I don’t know of my colleagues [being corrupt]… I see them going to their seats and dedicating their lives. When was the last time you heard a report about malfeasance in Government and corruption in contracts? That used to be a weekly and monthly occurrence under the 18 years [of the previous Government]. I can count dozens upon dozens of…scandals…the quantum of mismanagement under a previous regime has yet to be fully quantified. We came in and recognised that in order to build Jamaica the party has to lead from the front and build confidence in the population that you have a party and a leader that you can trust,” he said.