Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Letter of the Day | Neglect party matters to your peril, JLP

Published:Friday | March 3, 2017 | 12:00 AM


I note with curiosity and concern the cancellation of the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) annual all-island general conference for the past two years.

In November 2015, the party took the decision to cancel, supposedly strategically, on account of the impending general parliamentary election with which then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller pussyfooted to her detriment, resulting in said elections not being held until February 2016.

In November 2016, while by then in Government, the JLP decided to hold municipal elections and postpone conference until February 26, 2017. February came and went without conference being so held or any further update provided, at least sufficiently communicated publicly.

Was conference abandoned without notice to party members because the JLP is focused on governance? It goes without saying that without electoral success, there can be no opportunity to form the government. Therefore, the JLP cannot, as important as governance is, especially in light of the country's situation and prospects, afford to focus exclusively on governance and neglect the politics, that is, the party's affairs.

Said mistake was made during the JLP's 2007 to 2011 reign. Many Labourites claimed then that the party abandoned them, and they reacted or retaliated by refusing to participate in the 2011 general parliamentary elections, which occasioned, in large part, the disappointing loss for the JLP.

I would be the first to admit that party conferences, including those of the People's National Party, have become disappointingly more about hype than substance. That notwithstanding, cancellation should be a rarity and only effected in highly extraordinary circumstances, a threshold not likely met for the last two cancellations.

While at it, there should be a serious re-examination of the conference format or structure to ensure greater and meaningful participation by party members and delegates in helping to inform and shape the party's agenda and policy positions.




Additionally, the necessary constitutional amendments should be considered to make conference a biennial event, with the election of officers also being held biennially. The area councils would continue to meet as normal, with the party officers meeting and updating the members and supporters on party matters, at the annual conference, of each area council on the off-year of the national conference.

Belmont Road must continue to function, even if understandably not as heightened as when an election is imminent, to deal seriously and continuously with party matters.

One problem is that most of the party high-ranking functionaries, such as the chairman, general secretary, treasurer, and deputy general secretaries, are high-profile government officials, as well as members of parliament or constituency caretakers.

It, therefore, begs the question as to how effectively the party's affairs can be executed when said functionaries have so many responsibilities with which to contend, or are otherwise integrally involved in Government.