Monday 20 May, 2019

'A mature speech': Political commentators react to Holness address

JLP leader and Prime Minister, Andrew Holness addresses Labourites at the party's 75th Annual Conference. (PHOTO: Llewellyn Wynter)

JLP leader and Prime Minister, Andrew Holness addresses Labourites at the party's 75th Annual Conference. (PHOTO: Llewellyn Wynter)

A mature speech during which the parliamentary Opposition was not even mentioned once, in the usual partisan way that tends to highlight the annual conferences of the country’s two main political parties.

That’s one of the main takeaways, for political commentators, from the speech delivered on Sunday by Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader and Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the JLP’s 75th annual conference at the National Arena.

“It is refreshing that a speech was made at a political conference and there was no bickering in terms of him (Holness) referring to the Opposition or anything that they had done... he instead focused on the whole thing about the development of Jamaica,” said Dennis Chung during an interview with Loop News on Monday.

Fellow political commentator Kevin O’Brien Chang expressed a similar view.

“It was not his most inspiring speech, but it was perhaps his most thought provoking. What is remarkable, I mean many people say they can’t remember this, including myself, is that he didn’t refer to the PNP or the Opposition once,” said O’Brien Chang.

Chang... describes Holness' address as "a sort of nuts and bolts speech"

“There was no bashing. There was no boasting…look pon di dollar (which has revalued against its United States counterpart). Look pon di growth (in the economy) look pon the jobs (over 80,000 created),” O’Brien Chang observed.

The political commentator said, rather than taking a victory lap, Holness merely “referred to the facts on the ground.”

Of note is the fact that, during the annual conference of the PNP, at the same venue in September, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips ripped into the ruling JLP, declaring that the Government "has more scandals than you have scandal bags inna Riverton City".

Holness did not offer up the usual tit-for-tat this time round.

According to O’Brien Chang, the Prime Minister, whose presentation he referred to as “low-keyed hype” was perhaps mindful of the criticism the JLP faced when in 1971 the economy was recording growth in the region of 11 per cent yet, “In 1972 they got booted from office.”

O’Brien Chang pointed out, “Back in the (19)80s, again they had high growth in the last four years up to 1989. They were bragging about it, (and) what happened? They got booted from office. Clearly the growth is not filtering down and you hear people saying there’s prosperity but the little people not feeling it. The PNP for one keep saying it as an Opposition would, and should.”

Chung... said he agreed with the emphasis being placed on education

For his part, Chung told Loop News that “I think that we are on the right track in terms of the economic improvements that we are seeing. There are some things I think that have slipped up along the way and show some of the cracks that we have. We are doing well I think in terms of housing development, the road construction, I agree with all of that, also some of the fiscal policy changes…but we need to have a plan beyond the economic development.”

Chung said he agreed with the emphasis being placed on education by the Prime Minister. However, he said: “We will never get to the stage as a country that is truly somewhere that people want to live if we don’t address the situation of law and order. I refer specifically to things like the indiscipline on the roads in terms of how the taxi men drive. The fines in the new Road Traffic Act are a joke, they need to be more than that.  We won’t get to a really developed society if we don’t address the situation of the rampant child abuse that takes place. We won’t get to that point also if we don’t enforce the situation relating to the zoning laws – people being able to put up stalls any and everywhere they feel.

“To truly get to a developed economy, we have to address the law and order issues,” Chung stressed.

Meanwhile, according to O’Brien Chang, the Prime Minister, in his conference speech, stuck to the facts on the ground.

“No fancy stuff, no rhetoric, none of those phrases that normally lead to a standing ovation, there was none of that,” Chang said, describing it as a “sort of nuts and bolts speech” that listed a number of things that have been accomplished and one which outlined what the Administration was continuing to do.

He told Loop News that “This speech by Andrew Holness was squarely directed at the working poor.”

“If I were a working poor person, it would be music to my ears because it’s exactly the things I would be thinking about, an education for my children, my ability to get a job and the ability to get trained in this economy. Because when you grow and leave the masses behind, it’s fragile growth, it’s unstable. He’s giving poor working Jamaicans a way to their economic independence,” O’Brien Chang reasoned.

And, while Holness did not mention the parliamentary Opposition in his speech, O’Brien Chang has spared a thought for the PNP.

“If I were the PNP, I would be scratching my head and asking myself, how do I counter this?”

The politics aside, O’Brien Chang stated that for the last two years “We have seen remarkable progress at a scale which some of us never believed we would have ever seen.”

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