A sea of green-clad Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters filled the National Arena in St Andrew and spilled over outside on Sunday for the 79th annual conference of the ruling party.
The party’s leader, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, received a tumultuous welcome when he arrived with his wife Juliet and their younger son Matthew.
The annual conference, which was being held for the first time since the novel coronavirus pandemic, had diplomats as special guests who, like the frenzied supporters, listened as the party’s General Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang, Chairman Robert Montague, and Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett spoke of the Government’s achievements.
Bartlett announced plans for the building of a 2,000-room hotel in Hanover, as well as ground-breaking on Friday for a 2,000-room hotel in Montego Bay.
He said that Hanover is also set to increase its room capacity to 4,000. St Ann will also have a similar increase in rooms, as will St James and Trelawny, while St Thomas will be targeted as the “new oyster”.
“That’s where the the next move for tourism is going to come, and what it means is that in the next five years 45,000 new jobs will be created in the tourism industry,” Bartlett told the conference.
He noted that US$4 billion to US$5 billion will be invested in these developments, which will trigger about a two per cent increase in gross domestic product each year.
Dr Chang, in his address, said that more than 70 guns had been retrieved by the police, as well as some 2,000 rounds of ammunition in the gun amnesty which ended on Saturday night.
“It was a good turn out,” Dr Chang said as he applauded the work of the security forces in keeping crime figures down.
“Now our policemen and women can go out there and work hard and apprehend the criminals and know full well that they will be put away and taken off the streets and no more pose a threat to the people of the country,” Chang added.
He said that the Government has formulated a three-fold security strategy designed to enforce strong law enforcement measures, as well as the expansion of the membership of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the addition of more vehicles, cameras, and good legislation that they need to work with.
President of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union Senator Kavan Gayle congratulated Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke for his handling of the current labour issues involving public sector workers, including the compensation review.
“It is one of the best round of increases for private sector workers, and I say… have patience with the Minister of Labour Karl Samuda who is right now leading a team — the National Minimum Wage Advisory Commission — in reviewing the minimum wage rates to make recommendations for improvements for all workers, including private security guards,” Senator Gayle said.