‘We are making progress’
Holness says JLP in unifying mode
CHRISTIANA, Manchester — Opposition leader Andrew Holness told a constituency conference hosted by former bitter rival Audley Shaw on Sunday night, that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was progressing towards unity following the divisiveness of last November's leadership contest.
"My job as leader is to put my hands out and embrace everyone... my hands wide ...and they have been outstretched and we have been embracing and we are making progress," Holness told an enthusiastic crowd of the JLP's North-East Manchester delegates, workers and hardcore supporters at the Christiana High School.
"Every family will have their problems," Holness said in reference to the failed leadership challenge by Shaw, former finance minister and current shadow spokesman for the portfolio who has been member of parliament for NE Manchester since 1993.
"The strength of the family is really how quickly it recovers after challenges and our family have learnt very quickly that if we are divided we won't stand up. The delegates understand that very well, the leadership understands that very well," said Holness.
"Politics is not about me and what I want, it's not about Audley and what he wants; it's not about our personal ambitions; politics is about what you want, politics is about serving your goals, your dreams, your ambitions, your aspirations," the Opposition leader told labourites.
"We don't become representatives to sit in Parliament for our own benefit. It is about what is best for the people of the country. If we are to serve you effectively as the loyal alternative government and as the government to be, we have to be united in the cause," he added.
Holness claimed that the body language of Labourites who greeted him at the party conference had indicated that they were at the point of letting "bygones be bygones".
"I sat there and I surveyed the eyes," the Opposition leader told the crowd at the start of his speech.
"The eyes are the windows to the soul. You listen to words ...words come from the brain, because most people think before dem talk. But the eyes are connected directly to your soul, you can't hide how you feel through your eyes. So, while I listen to words, I also watch eyes, and the hugs I get, handshakes, interaction ...I look in the eyes and know that you have reached the point where we say bygones be bygones," he said.
Holness expanded on a theme developed by earlier speakers, including Shaw, and fellow parliamentarians Ed Bartlett and Rudyard Spencer, that the JLP had to be united and strong in order to get rid of the People's National Party (PNP) Government , which Holness said was "mashing up the country", whenever elections are called.
Earlier Shaw, who claimed that "we are a country in trouble" and "people are suffering", told Holness that unity to defeat the PNP should take priority over everything else.
"I feel privileged that you have taken the time to come here tonight because we have a job that is bigger than you and bigger than me. We have a job that is bigger than our egos; we have a job bigger than even the democratic example that we have shown in our party. We have a bigger job, we have a bigger cause, we have a bigger duty, we have a bigger responsibility, we have to come together," Shaw said.
There has been considerable fear in some circles that the divisions triggered by the leadership contest would have endangered the JLP's chances in upcoming Local Government elections as well as parliamentary elections constitutionally due in three years. That fear heightened in the aftermath of the ousting of the high-profile Christopher Tufton — arguably Shaw's most passionate advocate during the leadership contest — from the Senate and the latter's subsequent decision to withdraw as chairman and JLP caretaker for the South West St Elizabeth constituency.
Pointing out that Sunday was the last day in the latest phase of enumeration, the JLP speakers urged Labourites to "enumerate, enumerate, enumerate".
They also told the party hardcore that a message needed to get across to the general populace that the JLP has a superior track record of governance compared to the ruling PNP.
Shaw and Holness insisted that while the current government had succeeded in "passing" three performance tests set by multilateral lender of last resort, the International Monetary Fund, it was failing to manage the economy in a fashion that could sustainably serve Jamaicans.