Fifty-eight of the 63 candidates who vied for a seat in Parliament on the JLP ticket were said to have attended the special meeting and aired concerns and reasons which could have accounted for the 21-42 defeat for the administration, which spent only one term in office.
General Secretary Aundre Franklin said it was a very useful and productive meeting, and one which led to proactive positions to guide the party. “It was a meeting that was very critical, but yet still saw everyone being united at its end,” Franklin told journalists during a press conference at the JLP’s headquarters in Kingston immediately following the meeting.
Said Franklin: “For those persons who might be of the view that the party would embark on a blame game, that did not occur. What occurred was constructive criticism of how things were managed and how to make things better.”
JLP and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, at the same time, said there was some constructive criticism of both the party and the Government as candidates and other party functionaries were able to put concerns squarely on the table.
Holness, while noting that several reasons, explanations and excuses were put forward by members in attendance, said the party would be pressing ahead to conduct a strategic review, taking into account the concerns raised. The Opposition leader said there were no complaints from the candidates about lack of support from the party’s secretariat, but candidates raised concerns about co-ordination, enumeration and election day readiness, issues of voter apathy, and style of governance.
“The JLP is adapting a strategic analytical approach as to why we lost the election. I believe there is much benefit in taking this approach as it will give us solid information on which to act and will give us a direction that is not just our impression or anecdotes, but solid data on which the leadership of the party can take decisions.
He said there was also merit to the argument that the party should have paid more attention to getting more persons enumerated. “So whilst general issues were raised there may be some specific issues; but the purpose of the meeting was to give candidates and functionaries a chance to express themselves,” Holness said.
According to Holness, the meeting focused on other issues which will be revealed over time. “I think we could sum up by saying that everyone who attended the meeting left with a sense that, first of all, the party is committed to rebuilding, but with an upbeat spirit; a motivated spirit and very soon we expect to retake the government of this country,” he said.
The JLP leader said the party remained very motivated despite the loss, and although disappointed was not defeated in spirit and was ready to play the role as a loyal and faithful Opposition, while positioning itself as the alternative government.
“We will not only be opposing where things are wrong, but we will also be proposing to make things right; and that is the sentiment that was agreed to in the meeting, and all candidates and functionaries understand that and will adapt that as the stance going forward,” he said.
The party, said Holness, is already preparing for the local government election, and expressed confidence that the JLP will be successful in retaining the majority of the seats in the polls, which could be held by this March.
“The country should bear in mind that with the majority that the PNP now has it is important to maintain political stability, and I think that the electorate will reflect on this and want to ensure that the JLP control the local government to maintain political balance in the country,” Holness said.
He said that there was a sentiment among the electorate that they need to be active now, because their withdrawal from the poll indeed had an impact on the results of the general election. “There are many persons who are not satisfied with the current result but they didn’t vote, and I think now they will be motivated to vote in the local government election,” he said.