JLP cranks up mobilisation in show of strength
Streets across Clarendon were painted green on Sunday as hundreds of bell-tolling Labourites congregated before venturing off to the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) 79th annual conference at the National Arena in St Andrew.
Scores of supporters, clad in green and some in shirts emblazoned with the faces of politicians, said this year’s conference – the first mass gathering in three years since the ebbing of the COVID-19 pandemic – reignited enthusiasm among party faithful and provided a platform for the hierarchy to reassert its intention of remaning in government.
At a recent press conference at the JLP headquarters on Belmont Road in Kingston, the JLP’s conference chairman, Desmond McKenzie, said the event was expected to cost about $50 million.
Councillor Winston Maragh of Clarendon South Eastern’s Rocky Point division said lunch stipends alone for 1,000 people in the constituency amounted to $2 million. Quizzed on the cost of shirts and other paraphernalia, Maragh said he was uncertain.
Member of Parliament Pearnel Charles Jr told The Gleaner that financing such events is always a challenge, citing the geographical size of the constituency as one factor.
“But what we do is we try to lean on the supporters, lean on persons who share the philosophy and who understand that without their support, we can’t really get the buses and get the shirts, so we’ve been able to call on these persons to give some support,” Charles said.
“The party also gives some support,” he added.
Transportation cost is usually among the highest bills.
Robert Morgan, member of parliament for Clarendon North Central, declined to comment on the cost to mobilise supporters but said there was “strong support” from his constituents for Sunday’s conference.
Divisional political representatives said they were encouraged by the enthusiasm of supporters, who were thrilled to rally together after more than two years of coronavirus lockdowns, curfews, and physical distancing that kept them apart.
“It has been two long years since we’ve met like this, and we are superexcited to go to the National Arena this morning, and we will be well represented by the people from Central Clarendon, and we’re going to show our full support to Andrew Michael Holness,” said Councillor Tanyalee Williams, who heads the May Pen North division, referencing her party leader and prime minister.
“It has never been difficult [to mobilise people] in Central Clarendon. We are always on the ground, we are always making sure our people are okay, so there was no hard work in getting our people out.”
Williams was speaking with The Gleaner on Sunday at Bargain Village in May Pen, the parish capital, where scores of “Shower Labourites” congregated before boarding buses bound for St Andrew. The councillor said that atop her list of expectations was to hear the Government’s crime plan as well as for the prime minister to address the island’s garbage-collection crisis.
Grumbling over irregular collection has spiralled in recent months, but the anticipated roll-out of 50 new garbage trucks by December 1 is expected to halve complaints, Audley Gordon, executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority, said Saturday.
Newly minted councillor candidate Lorraine Green-Mason, who will be vying to represent the May Pen West division in Clarendon Central, said it was no difficult feat to pull out crowds to head to the National Arena.
“It is not just about when conference goes on, so we have always been engaging the community, and the persons are excited, and they are really looking forward to go out to conference today,” said Green-Mason hours before arriving.
Supporters also expressed satisfaction with Holness’ leadership, with some confident that he will return as head of government when the next parliamentary elections are due by 2025. Among them was Nadira ‘Nancy’ Taylor, who said: “One Labour Party. Andrew Holness. Anything come after a loser. JLP all the way. One more term pan dem!”