THE report of the Independent Commission set up to review the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in May last year is nearing completion.
The five-member Independent Strategic Review Commission (ISRC) was mandated to establish the reasons for the low voter turnout in the December 2011 general elections, which the party lost, and articulate strategies to convert the "broad mass of disaffection" into JLP support.
Addressing the Observer Press Club last Thursday, JLP leader Andrew Holness said the party was in rebuilding mode.
"They have done all the fieldwork, we have analysed the party from all levels using accepted sampling and research methodology, we have used persons who are experts in their fields and persons whose independence cannot be questioned because we want to hear the truth about us," Holness said.
"Certainly the election defeat would have made us more amenable to introspection, so I think most persons in the party are looking inward and looking on themselves to see how can we improve, how can we change.
"They have started to write their report. A preliminary copy was sent to me; I am in the process of reviewing. Once we have tidied up I am expecting that I should have the report shortly [and] that it will be brought to the Standing Committee of the party and filtered through all the organisation's structures," he said.
The commission, headed by professor of sociology, psychology and social work at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Bernard Headley, also includes Rev Dr Maitland Evans, president of the International University of Caribbean and chairman of the Mel Nathan Institute, a 34-year-old inner-city empowerment project started in Hannah Town, West Kingston; Dr Marcia Forbes, communications specialist and media veteran; Dr Lloyd Waller, lecturer in methodology in the Department of Government at UWI, Mona; and Professor Neville Swaby, a finance and banking expert who heads the University of Technology/Jamaican Institute of Management School of Advanced Management.
According to the opposition leader, the JLP is far from satisfied with its present state.
"The Jamaica Labour Party acknowledges that it has significant work to do in rebuilding its internal structures and we have embraced the challenge and we have actively started to do so. For us it is not merely a matter of rebuilding; we want to build a political structure that can effectively implement and execute the policies necessary to make Jamaica the developed country that we know it can be," Holness said.
"We are not interested in merely being a political machinery. We want to be a genuine political organisation that is in tune, in line, and in sync with the dreams and aspirations of the average Jamaican. We want to build a political organisation that Jamaicans can identify with. We want the Jamaica Labour Party to be Jamaica's political party," he added.
The opposition leader said this was a switch the current Government has not been able to make.
"To me, political power is meaningless unless it advances the country, and what Jamaica is experiencing is a highly tuned political machinery that has no interest in advancing the country. It doesn't know how to; it was never built for that in the first place," he said of the ruling People's National Party (PNP).
"So the Jamaica Labour Party has the challenge of not just building a political structure, but to make sure that the political structures are in line with the dreams, goals, desires of the Jamaican people," he said.
Added Holness: "It is an ongoing process. By the next election we should be sufficiently restructured internally."
In the meantime, he said the focus of the party was also an imperative.
"In the political environment, political actors can be distracting, your competitor can do something and you react or say something and you react, so the party can become very reactive and therefore not follow its own agenda; so focus is important, in that we are not reacting to the PNP, we are setting our own agenda," Holness said.
He, however, noted that the Opposition in no way intended to relinquish its oversight duties.
"If the Government is going off-track we have to be critical, but we also have to be true to our own agenda," he said.
In the meantime, the JLP has also been reaching out in order to build and develop links with the different segments of society, including the media and trade unions.
"We are also starting to attract new persons — persons have been coming to us... we are on our own public relations campaign and we have brought in some amount of expertise and we are preparing to bring in more so there are changes happening in the party," Holness said.
"While that is happening, you will hear hangovers from the old era. Hangovers go as far back as 20 years; I don't pay attention to those things, they can rock the boat but I believe my full attention should be paid on building the new structure, so I don't get tied up," he explained.
"I am focused in building a new labour party. The ship of the labour party is leaving port and all those who are quibbling and making remarks, if you don't get on board you will be left behind. One thing I am certain of, is that the delegates of the party want to move on," he said.
In the meantime, he said the islandwide tour by the party, which began last year but was suspended in December for the holidays, will resume this month.