Confidence on display at conference of the faithful
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
THE EXPECTED lethargy from the harsh economic times, frozen wages, unemployment and personal hardships did little to dampen the spirits of those who travelled from communities across the island to hear Portia Simpson Miller address the People's National Party's (PNP) 76th annual conference.
Long-suffering Comrades ventured to the National Arena yesterday for the final-day celebrations with a show of strength in numbers, which Luther Buchanan, member of parliament for Eastern Westmoreland, estimated to be near 15,000.
Among them was a frail-looking O.D. Ramtallie, former government minister, and Marjorie Taylor, former member of parliament.
It was also a conference to remember Roger Clarke, the affable late agriculture minister who died August 28 and was laid to rest two weeks ago.
"This is a conference of the faithful. We are midway in the term, and look at the numbers that are here today ... . These are people who believe in the People's National Party, people who are confident in the leadership the party provides," said Buchanan, following the conclusion of proceedings.
Beverley Anderson Duncan was among those prominently seated on the platform who never missed a beat to the rhythm of Tony Rebel's Teach the Children. Nor did the Comrades decked out in their traditional orange and red garb.
As usual, the crowd outside the arena was larger than that inside, and the midday drizzle did little to take their eyes from the large screens set up outside for them to view the proceedings.
Inside, the entry of former party president P.J. Patterson was followed closely by current leader Simpson Miller, both arriving to loud sounds of vuvuzelas.
At times, the noise was deafening, but Comrades blew the horns in a show of confidence and support.
salute to roger clarke
Patterson saluted the memories of the late Sir Howard Cooke, whose death he said closed the chapter of the PNP's birth, and told Comrades that when the next 75 years of the party were written, Simpson Miller's leadership would be highly placed.
In memorialising the late agriculture minister, he said Clarke proved larger in death than he was in life.
Patterson said: "I will never be tired to see your face. That is what keeps me young, and that is what keeps me strong, when we as a party are moving forward to progress, in unity."
An emotional Simpson Miller again shed a tear or two at the short feature on Clarke, whose bust was carried in the arena by supporters from his constituency.
When the "long-foot girl from Wood Hall in St Catherine" came to the microphone to deliver a speech championing the party's achievements since it regained power, she took time to remember the family of Mario Deane, who was laid to rest yesterday.
She also remembered the family of Derreca Campbell, the York Castle High schoolgirl who died tragically in an accident last week.