Current Affairs

Current Affairs



PNP seeks to renew itself
Two-day retreat begins tomorrow
ARLENE MARTIN, Observer staff reporter
Wednesday, November 19, 2003



THE ruling People's National Party heads into a two-day retreat tomorrow at which its officials hope to set an agenda for sprucing up its image and a platform from which to launch initiatives aimed at winning back faltering support after 14 years in government.

The PNP won a fourth consecutive term in office in October 2002, albeit by a narrow majority. Seven months later it was beaten by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in municipal elections and the most recent opinion polls that were done last September showed it trailing the JLP's 29.6 per cent by 7.1 per cent.

But its officials yesterday said that what deputy general secretary Colin Campbell called a move towards a "re-branding" of the party was no panic response to the latest poll numbers and the perception that the PNP was losing ground.

"... This is not a short-term panic response by no means," the party's general secretary and information minister, Burchell Whiteman, told reporters at a press conference at the PNP headquarters on Old Hope Road, Kingston. "This is really a culmination of a process which began right after the general elections last year."

"We started... to look at how we should reorganise -- and retrofit if you like -- the party for this new dispensation -- a fourth term, increasing tightness in the economy, a revived Opposition party and how the party prepares itself to deal with these realities."

The serious work, according to Whiteman, began to take shape soon after the local government elections with "an in-depth analysis of the results" and PNP bosses admitting that there were weaknesses in the organisation in the community and other levels.

The aim now, said Whiteman, was for a "fresh look and reconstitution of some structures of the party at the leadership level".

"The retreat is expected to produce not only a new spirit within the leadership but some specific plans which will go before the National Executive Council on Sunday, November 23 at the Jamaica Conference Centre," he said.

The issues to be discussed at the retreat include:

* the education of the PNP membership in the context of globalisation;
* the role of civil society in governance;
* community democracy
* outreach and recruitment activities;
* strengthening of policy commissions;
* monitoring of parliamentary and government performance;
* the PNP as a national organisation representing Jamaicans at home and abroad; and
* party financing.

Participants will include officers, members of the party's executive committee, resource persons and representatives of the party's arms and affiliates.

According to Whiteman, the retreat will benefit from a set of presentation papers made by different members of the leadership team and "incorporating the views and recommendations of persons outside the party establishment".

Campbell described the retreat as a "watershed event" that will be critical to how the PNP pursues its "21st century mission".

"We will be dedicating some amount of time looking at the whole issue of communication, our strategies to communicate with the Jamaican people and how does the party at this stage presents itself to the people of Jamaica ...," Campbell said. " Also [we'll look at] how do we evolve a process of communication with the public which we serve and try to ensure that they are on board with all the various policy positions that we have to speak about from time to time."