The impending leadership challenge in the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has brought to the fore a most important issue -- respect for democracy.
Mr Audley Shaw, one of the party's four deputy leaders and the man who has more or less indicated that he intends to challenge Mr Andrew Holness for the top job, highlighted this issue in an address to supporters in Christiana two weeks ago.
"I am determined to help establish a culture of internal democracy in the JLP," Mr Shaw said in that address. "If that is the only thing that will be (said)... that I accomplish by this challenge, I am going to make sure (of) the vision of bringing democracy to the Jamaica Labour Party. Although it is expressly written in the JLP constitution that we are a democratic party, the delegates of this party, from time to time, ought to be given the opportunity to decide who their leader should be."
Strong words from Mr Shaw which should be supported by any individual committed to the ideal of allowing all views to contend. For that, we hold, is vital to the preservation of our democracy and should not be compromised.
Intolerance of opposing views is not uncommon in both of Jamaica's major political parties. We recall well that similar accusations were made quietly to this newspaper during the leadership challenge in the now governing People's National Party.
Supporters of Dr Peter Phillips, the challenger, were branded as disloyal because they dared to oppose positions held by the party leadership, and Dr Phillips himself was pilloried by Comrades angry that he exercised his democratic right to contest the leadership.
Now it's the JLP's turn to exhibit this unbecoming behaviour. But Mr Shaw, we believe, should be congratulated for his forthrightness and his willingness to expose such a blatant and fundamental delinquency in the operations of his party.
Any party which places itself before the people in a bid to lead this country must, of essence, be committed, and must, of necessity, practice the very principles upon which our system of governance is built.
The allegation that attempts are being made to prevent delegates from voting in leadership elections at the JLP's upcoming annual conference must be addressed by the party secretariat with urgency.
For any elections held by the party at the November conference must be free, fair and transparent. Anything less would leave the country with the impression that the JLP is opposed to the ideal of democracy and, as such, has no business offering itself as an alternative government.