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EDITORIAL - Mr Holness needs support

Published:Sunday | April 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Obituaries about the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) are premature and unduly alarmist. Which is not to say that the opposition party is not ill, or that its malady, if left untreated, could not linger and, conceivably, turn terminal.

But in the often cyclical life of politics, the JLP, as many other parties, has been here before, mostly, they rebound.

Mr Andrew Holness, the JLP leader, nonetheless has a difficult job ahead of him if he is to resuscitate his party. But the task is not his alone. He needs help from JLP supporters and sympathisers who are concerned about the state of the party and its importance to the maintenance of democracy. Indeed, if these backers fail to act now, the JLP risks becoming mired in the status quo, an intellectually febrile future where vying for state power is primarily to preserve the benefits of the gang. Alternatively, it just limps along.

The time for reform is propitious, especially if Mr Holness is bold, understanding that the venture is beyond attempting to secure his job.

First, he needs not to be defensive about the trouncing received by the JLP in last week's local government elections and the one in December for the national government. For while Mr Holness led the JLP into both elections and cannot claim complete distance from events that cost his party the trust of the Jamaican people, he does not carry the brunt of the burden of responsibility.

Indeed, it was his predecessor, Bruce Golding, who staked his political future, and lost, in the Christopher Coke extradition impasse that so tarnished Jamaica's reputation. That caper, more than the economic squeeze, encouraged Jamaicans to make the JLP the island's first single-term administration. The upside is that with the elections out of the way, the JLP has five years to rebuild itself.

A perceptive and smart Mr Holness will attempt to tap into the concerns of the half of the electorate who did not vote in the December. They are reflective of a growing number of Jamaicans who are disenchanted with a politics that is deemed to be corrupt, overlaid by patronage and sustained by votes corralled by our colour-coded zones of political exclusions.

So, Mr Holness has not only to articulate, but be willing to execute a vision of the JLP as a modern, progressive party, enabled to knock down the ramparts of garrison communities. In this regard, he has to build alliances with other modernisers, regardless of their ambitions or concerns that they may evolve into leadership rivals. In the rebuilding, the putrefied old guard, and their young acolytes who benefit from garrison politics and a broader corruption of the process, won't go quietly. They will fight. They have to be stared down.

Mr Holness, as part of a confidence-building exercise, must frankly and robustly engage the party, and the wider public, about his vision for the JLP. This process must lead to a philosophy around which the party coalesces and policy options that Jamaicans can support.

JLP sympathisers must throw their hats in the ring and prod and brace Mr Holness and/or whoever is ready for the job of renewing the party.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.