Confident Comrades party as they eye election victory
Tight going at the entrance of National Arena as scores of Comrades try to make their way inside. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

HALF an hour before the scheduled 10:00 am start of the public session of the People's National Party's (PNP) 85th Annual Conference, the National Arena in St Andrew resembled a dance that had flopped.

Inside the arena the music echoed off the walls as a handful of organisers and supporters glided through an almost-empty facility while a selector tried to interest them.

Outside the arena another selector tried to rile up the people but they were mainly vendors, security guards and the police, who were more interested in working.

It was more of a silent wake for a dead than a party as traffic flowed freely around the National Stadium complex and evidently bored security guards, vendors, and members of the media looked on while the start was delayed.

Scores of Comrades at the public session of the PNP's 85th Annual Conference at the National Arena on Sunday (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

Less than one hour later things changed dramatically. Suddenly Arthur Wint Drive became a parking lot as several vehicles arrived, security check points were overrun, and hundreds of celebrating Comrades poured into the Stadium complex clad in mainly orange shirts bearing the faces or names of their political representatives.

From freely moving about, with space to sit in and around the arena, people were reduced to walking while trying to avoid stepping on toes. In minutes the entrance to the complex was transformed into a jam as Comrades came out to what is their annual party.

This time the public session of the annual conference had even more vibes as the Comrades expressed confidence that it was the start of a march to a return to government, having spent the last seven years on the Opposition benches.

"The PNP will win the next general election for sure," said Lloyd Robinson from St Catherine East Central.

Comrades celebrating. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

"The PNP will win because we have done our work. We made our mistakes [in 2020] and we have gotten over the horror and we are ready to take over from this Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

"I know Mr Andrew Holness from he was a little boy when he was going St Catherine High School and I thought he was an asset, and I didn't know that he was a liability. My daughter was going to school in Mandeville, and her school fee was $48,500 and she was sent home because she couldn't pay her school fee. I noted that [former PNP President and Prime Minister] Michael Manley brought a lantern and showed that every Jamaican should learn, and Andrew Holness come change that so only the rich should get education," added Robinson as he declared that there is no way the PNP can lose the next general election.

It was a similar refrain from several other Comrades outside the arena as they ignored the official presentations on the stage inside and instead used the yearly public session of the annual conference to catch up with colleagues who they see once a year.

It was a mutual bonding session as they encouraged each other to work to ensure the party is victorious in whichever election is called next by the prime minister.

PNP supporters were sending a message to the Holness-led Administration that, "Time come now." (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

With the music thumping outside the arena and the mode of dress rolling seamlessly between dancehall risqué and semi-formal, the Comrades were clearly in a party mood as they danced while supporting the vendors who were selling every and anything — from a special (white rum and a chaser) to a spliff (marijuana).

But even as they enjoyed themselves it was clear that the PNP supporters were sending a message to the Holness-led Administration that, "Time come now", which was the theme of their conference.

"It clear, it clear; we gone. Time come now. We a get back central St James and we turn back St James orange, and we declare it," Marcia, a Comrade from the St James Central seat which the PNP's Andre Hylton lost to the JLP's Heroy Clarke in the 2020 General Election.

For Mark from St Andrew Eastern, the writing is on the wall and the PNP just needs to get the ballots in the boxes to ensure its victory whenever Holness calls the next election.

The Comrades were clearly in a party mood (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

"We are going to take it because there are a lot of failures with the Jamaica Labour Party. They blunder a lot. Nobody can talk to them; they are arrogant, nobody can have a civil discussion with them as they only say, '[Take it or leave it'] — and when I measure those things, I cannot support a party like that.

"We can't give the Jamaica Labour Party another five years. You mad! Any sensible people can think of giving this party another five years? No. We have to think about the hospitals, the schools, teachers are going away, and when you think about a lot of things, we need the PNP to rescue the country," added Mark.

BY ARTHUR HALL Editor-at-Large

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