Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter
It was the usual sea of orange, red and yellow that you would expect from a People's National Party (PNP) conference, but some attendees believed the magic wasn't quite there.
More than a few self-described Comrades felt the crowd at the National Arena was smaller this year. Among them was Silbert Allen, from Braes River in St Elizabeth.
"Last year, this time (about noon), mi did have to climb over the fence fi go inside. Today, yuh can si di gate easy," he said. "Last year, wi had to sen' for another bus to carry everybody."
Allen felt that more could have been done to mobilise the crowd.
"We need to see the MPs more, not just 'round these times. Is dis mawnin' mi decide seh mi a come," he said. Another long-time supporter, Michael McLean, said he was not surprised and felt the economic hardships people are facing were a key factor in the smaller crowd.
"You see, people will come here but they know tomorrow morning, the bills are still there," he reasoned. "Even though they get a little something for the trip (to the conference), they just don't have it. It's mostly diehards you're going to see today."
Despite the view of some, some groups were well represented. Women sporting T-shirts of Western Hanover Member of Parliament Ian Hayles said there were about 10 buses making the trip to the capital.
"Trip nice, man," they shouted, as they hurried off to make sure they got a space inside. People on crutches and even a few in wheelchairs were not to be left out of the festivities. Even the 'high grade' men were out doing business, out of sight of the police.
As 2 p.m. (the scheduled time for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to speak) neared, the numbers definitely increased. Unfortunately for those outside the arena, the rains came, forcing them to seek shelter either from the various food and beverage tents or with the equestrian members of the Mounted Troop. But despite the few grumbles, Comrades were not abandoning their party.
"We cannot change enuh (in Braes River)," said Allen. "No matter what, we is PNP. But dem need to take better care of us."