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'Green money' blues!

Published:Sunday | November 9, 2014 | 11:00 AM
Mounted policemen attempt to control the massive crowd at the JLP's annual conference in 2011, but money woes could leave the party with a much smaller crowd next Sunday. -File photos
Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness (centre); Bobby Montague, chairman (right); and Horace Chang, general secretary.
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Cash-strapped JLP denies that money woes could water down annual conference

Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter

Strapped for cash, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) seems set to go into its annual conference next weekend without several of its members from rural Jamaica.

High-ranking JLP members last week claimed that the party has indicated to the leadership of area councils Three and Four that it will not have the money to provide any support for persons from central and western Jamaica to attend the conference, which has already been scaled down to one day instead of its usual two.

"The conference has been reduced to a meeting of JLP supporters in Kingston and St Andrew, parts of St Catherine and other constituencies in the east, due to the inability to raise the funds," charged a Sunday Gleaner source.

But this has been rejected by JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang.

"I am the secretary of the party, and there is nothing to that basis," said Chang.

"It is a national conference and people will come from all the constituencies. The party deals with party conference and there has been no change in policy," added Chang.

According to Chang, the conference will cost anywhere upwards of $7 million, with transportation and the rental of the arena accounting for a large chunk of the money.

He said the conference will be funded through normal contributions from various sources.

"Politics in Jamaica is funded by private contributions; that's normal political financing, and there is no other way to finance political campaigns in Jamaica," Chang said.

"Until they change the law, you can't do anything about that; that is how it is financed. People are making calls for public disclosure and public financing, and that is a matter that is being dealt with by Parliament."

UNCERTAINTY

However, the party's deputy leader in charge of Area Council Three, Rudyard 'Ruddy' Spencer, last Friday said he is uncertain about where the money is going to come from for delegates to travel to the National Arena for the conference.

"Let me state it as exactly what it is, as far as the JLP is concerned, I am waiting to hear from the JLP about funding for Area council Three," Spencer told our news team.

"What the general secretary said to me is that they have a couple commitments, and they are waiting on them to see if we will get anything. That's what he told me. And I think the same thing will go for Area Council Four. So right now, there is uncertainty," added Spencer.

He said he is planning a meeting for Wednesday, by which time he hopes Chang would have shed more light on the matter of funding for the area council.

"By then, we should have a definitive position, and we will meet with them (delegates) and tell them what the position is," Spencer said.

The JLP is also yet to pay the estimated $2.5 million it will cost to rent the National Arena for the conference.

"We have not received payment yet. I spoke to them up to this morning (Friday), but they normally pay, so we expect to be paid. The people in my office normally follow up on payment, and I heard promises have been made," said Major Desmond Brown, general manager of Independence Park Limited, which manages the National Arena.

But Chang was quick to put that matter to bed. "That's not an issue. We will make a downpayment, and then we will proceed," said Chang.

"We don't owe any money this year; our payment for last year is complete. Normally, we end up owing them money until next year, but we don't owe them any now, and we will pay them."

Chang also rejected the claim that the conference is being held over just one day because of financial issues.

"We have had them over two days before, but it's one day this year. We have a by-election in [Central] Westmoreland, so we don't want to tie up ourselves here," declared Chang.

"The working sessions can be done at another time. Sometimes we do area council and then we do one thing; we have various variations."

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com