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Bobby wins! - Central Executive vote forces JLP to unite

Shaw, Tufton elected to JLP Standing Committee

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, December 02, 2013    

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ROBERT 'Bobby' Montague retained chairmanship of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) yesterday as the party's powerful Central Executive cut across the divisions created by last month's leadership challenge in selecting its slate of officers for 2013/14, in an apparent message that the party must unite.

Montague was returned with the highest total number of votes for any candidate for any position, defeating former Deputy Leader Derrick Smith by 97 to 49 votes.

Montague was said to have come under pressure to stand down as he was accused by senior party members who backed Andrew Holness in the leadership race of not coming out in support of a candidate in the leadership race.

The message from the Central Executive was also clear from the results of the polling for officers yesterday, as it easily returned incumbent General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, voting him back into office by 87 to 60 votes over Joan Gordon-Webley.

Dr Chang had come under fire from supporters of leadership challenger Audley Shaw for supporting party leader Andrew Holness in the November 10 election.

Holness told a press briefing after the meeting at the party's Belmont Road headquarters in Kingston that coming out of the discussions was an absolute resolve that the party "must be unified going forward".

"I believe that is the spirit in which we ended the meeting: One unified, strong, healthy, robust political party that is now ready to take on the issues of Jamaica, to represent the views of the people, and to retake the government of this country," he said.

Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, said to be a Shaw supporter but who had the support of Holness's Team JLP in challenging incumbent Deputy Chairman Aundre Franklin, lost to Franklin by 96 votes to her 51.

Holness, however, can continue to count on strong backing from the party's secretariat, which apart from Dr Chang, is supported by four members who actively backed him in the leadership race -- Member of Parliament for South Cenral St Catherine Dr Andrew Wheatley; Councillor Homer Davis from St James; former Kingston and St Andrew Corporation Councillor Audley Gordon, and newcomer and former Mayor of Port Maria, Richard Creary, who replaces Dr St Aubyn Bartlett, a Shaw supporter in the leadership elections.

Holness told the press briefing that the Central Executive had gone even further and elected both Shaw and Dr Christopher Tufton to the powerful Standing Committee, and another Shaw supporter, Edmund Bartlett, to the head the International Relations Committee.

Bartlett's selection to head the International Relations Committee could be interpreted as an indication that he might eventually take up the post of spokesman on foreign affairs and foreign trade, which he had turned down after being offered by the party leader when he named his new shadow cabinet three weeks ago.

Holness also indicated yesterday that Shaw will continue to chair Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a position normally held by the Opposition spokesman on finance.

He also said that only one deputy leader position was still vacant and that is for Area Council Four (St Elizabeth, St James, Westmoreland, Hanover, and Trelawny), where Dr Tufton has withdrawn his candidacy.

James Robertson has assumed deputy leadership for Area Council Two (Portland, St Catherine, St Mary, and St Thomas) and Rudyard Spencer for Area Council Three (Clarendon, Manchester and St Ann).

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