Tue | Jan 22, 2019

The highs and lows of conference 71

Published:Tuesday | November 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Supporters at the Jamaica Labour Party's 71st annual conference at the National Arena on Sunday. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

THE JAMAICA Labour Party (JLP) was on Sunday saved from major embarrassment when Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Andrew Wheatley managed to have a menacing group of men take an ugly dispute outside the party's 71st annual conference at the National Arena.

It was unclear what caused the group of 13 men to enter the arena, brushing police and conference security aside as they tried to enter a sterile zone to the left of the platform.

They entered during the address by Manchester North East Member of Parliament Audley Shaw, and conference security and police officials denied them access.

They exited the arena, only to return within minutes with reinforcements - this time, more men, including one wearing a cream hoodie and another wearing a mask.

Object of their hostility

The group appeared to have found the object of their hostility: Wheatley.

Now, in the middle of the group, including police, the menacing men, and Wheatley, were engaged in a heated discussion.

The MP gesticulated wildly to the men, who, by then, encircled him. He kept pointing to the door through which they later disappeared.

The hoodie-wearing man appeared to be the leader of the pack, and ironically, he was the most calm of the group, leaving with deliberate steps, which suggested, 'I am leaving because I want to, not because I am asked'.

Some party faithful - with memories of the shooting death of a man mere feet away from the platform at conference 2007 - hastily exited the area.

Wheatley later told The Gleaner that a group of "exuberant supporters" breached the security walls, and he asked them to "use the proper channels or leave".

If that was the low point of the conference, a high point was the address by Generation 2000 President Floyd Green.

A confident, strident, and passionate Green stepped up to the microphone and took the crowd on a frenzied journey.

Citing poor returns for votes over many political administrations, he said the Constitution was a major weakness in the way politics was practised. He challenged Labourites to be part of the reform process, which would recall and remove poorly performing elected officials sooner rather than later. It's a mantra that he and others before him have expressed.