KINGSTON — Under pressure to ignite his party, Jamaica Labour Party Leader Andrew Holness, yesterday declared that the 2016 election campaign would begin now to replace the Portia Simpson Miller government.
Holness, who has been criticised for a lacklustre leadership style, lashed the government for the deteriorating economy, blaming it on the delay in implementing structural reform measures and signing of a new pact with the International Monetary Fund.
“We don’t intend to start campaigning a year before election is due. The political campaign starts now,” Holness told hundreds of fired up JLP delegates crowded into the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, for their scaled-down 69th annual conference.
The JLP leader was explaining the theme of the conference – Vision, Focus, Build, Connect – and his party’s frustrations with the wait for the implementation of the measures and a new agreement with the Fund, which is considered fundamental to economic growth.
Although the conference was advertised as a delegates’ event at which the JLP planned to have its leadership explain political issues facing the party and its economic and social vision, hundreds more filled the halls outside the main conference room and the streets outside the centre to listen the broadcast of the Opposition Leader’s speech and to witness the departure of he and his wife after the event.
The conference had all the hallmarks of the usual annual conference, except the space of the National Arena and the dancehall ambience, as the delegates listened intently to an approximately hour-long speech from Holness and applauded at intervals.
Other activities, including several workshops involving various sectors of the JLP community, fell through as the leadership grappled with how to resolve the issue of how three of its four deputy leaders came to be improperly nominated for re-election.
However, having negotiated that hurdle, the party moved into a public session characterised by speeches and reports, followed by questions and answers, until the arrival of Holness when it was pandemonium.
Holness, addressing party faithfuls for the first time since his devastating losses in the general and local government elections since December, seemed a lot more confident, passionate and resolute as he addressed the current pressures facing the nation.
He said that the delay in sealing a deal with the IMF was placing the economy at risk, as confidence declined. It was not only local investors who were concerned, but people doing business with Jamaica had become very cautious of their exposure. (Observer)