'The ship will sail after this conference'
Prince Andrew arises
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
One year after he was propelled into the role of leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Andrew Holness has declared himself ready to steer the 69-year-old political party decisively.
After two crushing defeats at the polls, Holness has spent much of the past year in introspection and has emerged stronger and focused.
"The period of self-assessment and catharsis is over," declared Holness last week during an interview with The Sunday Gleaner.
"The ship will sail after this conference. I spent time to build consensus. After this conference, you will see direction. That is where I stand," said Holness as he hinted that the country would see a more assertive brand of leadership from him.
"Leadership must be viewed to be just and fair. I am a strong believer in that. I may have a style of leadership that is not the normal style, but I think people will realise that though I might appear to be mild-mannered, it must not be mistaken for weakness," he warned.
"I don't think I would be here if I was (weak) ... . I think you have to shrewd, patient, and strategic," added Holness.
He proclaimed that he was over the disappointment of the electoral defeats and is focused on rebuilding the JLP.
"I have learned long ago never to take any of these things (political disappointments) personally, so I don't have any of these weights on my shoulder," Holness said.
"I sleep very well at nights; my conscience is clear," he asserted.
The former prime minister avowed that even in the difficult times, he was always liberated by a clear conscience.
"I spoke the truth (about what to expect in governance) and told the country what to expect. I think I was very clear about the things that I wanted to do, but I didn't get a chance to repeat it enough … . In a Jamaica with so many communication challenges and so much noise, the message will get drowned out. You have to constantly repeat it."
message to delegates
Holness said his plans and programmes that would have been implemented if the JLP had been given the mandate to form the Government in 2011 would be part of his message to JLP delegates when he addresses them today.
"I will use the conference to repeat some of the things that I wanted to have done had I been granted the opportunity."
He declared that he is ready for the task of ensuring that the JLP is a viable alternative to the governing People's National Party.
"Yes, I love my work (even though) it is a very stressful job. I have to be patient and not respond to all the barbs that are thrown."
According to Holness, in his first year as the leader of the JLP, he tried to do consensus building on all fronts.
"I would say that I was very understanding of the different agendas," he said.
"After this conference, I will have to start tightening up the reins and becoming more directional," he declared.
Even as he affirmed the need for a firm hand in steering the JLP, Holness acknowledged that the current era demands a different leadership style from that which was practised in the past.
"The party went through a period of rebellion almost, (early 1990s to mid-2000s), and it took a long time for us to settle down," said Holness.
"Modern leadership requires that we build consensus."
Holness suggested that autocratic leadership is a past phenomenon. "This is not to say that you don't have strong leadership, but I think instead, a little bit more time has to be spent building consensus," he asserted even as he argued that leaders must lead.
"After you have heard what everyone is saying, a direction must be established," the JLP leader submitted. "And I am not about to relinquish my directional role," he said.