Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Replacement candidates being sought for some constituencies
PREDICTING THAT voters will boot the People's National Party (PNP) from power when the next general election is called, Robert Montague, the acting chairman of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), says the party is quietly rebuilding its political machinery to ensure electoral success.
"We recognise that the party has to get ready because nine months of this government feels like nine years, and the writing is already on the wall, and, therefore, we have to move quickly," said Montague.
He was one of three Cabinet members who lost their seats last December as PNP president Portia Simpson Miller rallied the majority of voters to evict the JLP after just four years in office.
Since that election, a number of defeated JLP candidates have indicated they would be stepping away from representational politics.
However, Montague said he has received only five such written expressions.
He said the party will use next month's annual conference to accelerate plans to put caretakers in the various seats.
"The leadership of the party has resolved that we won't wait until near an election to introduce candidates and caretakers. We are moving to do that right now, and the process of recruitment and interviews has actually started," Montague said.
Similarly, party leader Andrew Holness said the party is not taking anything for granted. He said the process of placing caretakers in all 63 seats is a work in progress.
"The situation in the country is such that the future is not certain. One cannot plan and depend on an election day five years away," Holness said.
young, bright persons wanted
The JLP leader said the party is seeking to attract young, bright persons who will be trained and mentored by a council of elders within the party.
Only 21 of the 63 persons who contested parliamentary seats for the JLP were successful in the last general election. Four of the candidates — Danville Walker in Central Manchester; Dr Raymoth Notice in North Central St Catherine; Dr Saphire Longmore in East St Andrew; and Richard Creary in South East St Mary were thrown in at the 11th hour. All were unsuccessful.
Montague said the party has learnt from the mistakes of the past and will not be caught off guard whenever the trumpet sounds for the next elections. The election is due in December 2016.
"We don't want to put people in seats hastily and we end up with the wrong persons. A programme of work has been designed and the various area councils have been assigned tasks," Montague said.
Asked about the implications of the late introduction of candidates, Montague said this is still being analysed.
"But we know, anecdotally, that it will hurt. The person has not got a chance to get familiar with the various communities, the workers, and to get their message and personality out in the field."
The JLP acting chairman said the party is seeking to have the organisation in all constituencies fired up shortly.
He said there are various aspects of reform to the party's constitution which the party's annual conference must give assent to as part of strengthening its organisation.
Montague said this is the main reason the party is seeking to have a one-day delegates' conference without a public session this year.
"At a delegates' conference, the leadership hears from the delegate, but at a public session, just like a public meeting, the delegates only hear from the leader. We want to hear from our delegates," Montague said.
He noted, however, that there could still be a public session as donors and delegates have made representation for a public session.