Black Immigrant Daily News
Issues relative to national security and constitutional reform were high on the agenda at Sunday’s resumption of the Vale Royal Talks between members of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP).
The talks were delayed for some time, despite promises as far back as last year that they would have gotten under way.
Sunday’s meeting was facilitated by the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, and saw discussions lasting for three hours.
In a joint communique after the meeting, Prime Minister Andrew Holness pledged to continue the talks with his Opposition counterpart, PNP President Mark Golding, and other representatives of both parties.
Holness also expressed optimism that the talks will foster greater consensus on challenging national issues, adding that the previous discussions were successful in achieving some understanding of critical national matters.
“We may not always be able to address these critical issues and ventilate them properly in Parliament, but we can ventilate them here at the political level,” Holness stated.
“These talks have now become a part of Jamaica’s democratic institutional tradition, and they have been very useful for the political parties to find space which is created for discussions under the Chatham House rules,” the prime minister continued.
“It contributes positively to the building of a modern, positive political culture, and gives us a free space to talk about the important issues of the country,” he added.
According to Holness, the nation’s two political parties “intend to utilise the talks to advance the resolution of the contentious issues that divide us, in the interest of the people of Jamaica.
“The Vale Royal Talks is a signal to the country that their political leaders maintain an open dialogue to resolve the major issues that concern them,” declared Holness.
For Golding, the fact that there may be disagreement on some issues should not be regarded as “hindrance to dialogue, national unity and effective governance”.
Continuing, he said: “It is a question of how we resolve those differences, and the manner in which we conduct ourselves in bringing our points of view forward, that I think is important.
“By deliberately embracing this approach, the population can learn from our leaders how to resolve issues where there is not necessarily agreement,” Golding stated.
He reminded that the Opposition has a duty to the public to hold the Government to account, and to represent an alternative view regarding how Jamaica should move forward.
“The manner in which we do that is very important, because it needs to underpin national development and be part of a positive thrust towards stronger nationhood and deepening our democracy, rather than something that undermines progress,” declared Golding.
Both leaders expressed gratitude to the church for hosting the talks, and thanked members of the clergy for their blessing of the proceedings.
The JLP’s delegation included: General Secretary, Dr Horace Chang; Chairman Robert Montague; Legal and Constitutional Minister, Marlene Malahoo Forte; and Robert Morgan, Chairman of the JLP’s Communications Committee.
The PNP was also represented at the talks by its Chairman, Dr Angela Brown Burke; General Secretary, Dr Dayton Campbell; and senators Peter Bunting and Donna Scott-Mottley.