GENERAL secretary of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Dr Horace Chang says that the decision taken by the Standing Committee on Monday, to extend the registration of constituencies to Friday, will ensure the widest possible participation of delegates in the event there is a challenge to current leader Andrew Holness.
"The change was to ensure that the constituencies have representatives at the conference. If we had proceeded without that level of representation there would have been a question of legitimacy. Although it is fair that the law should rule, in politics we have to be somewhat accommodating from time to time," Dr Chang told journalists at a press briefing at Belmont Road, yesterday, to explain the Standing Committee's decision.
Chang rebuffed suggestions that the committee's decision was to accommodate the inclusion of the likely challenger to Holness, Deputy Leader Audley Shaw, whose North East Manchester constituency missed two deadlines to register up to May 31. This led to a clamour by some Labourites that it should have been excluded.
But, Chang said that the Standing Committee would have been accommodating, whether or not Shaw's constituency had missed the deadlines, "because, the purpose of this is to ensure that we have the participation of our constituencies, which will give us an election that cannot be questioned".
Dr Chang explained that, despite an extension of the period from March 31 to May 21, because of the low level of registrations up to the constitutional deadline, 24 constituencies were still not registered by that deadline, giving rise to questions as to whether they could legitimately participate in any election at the annual conference.
"It is a political process, and we are a political party, and we accept our responsibility and the need to ensure that we have the widest possible participation. Once there was a constitutional route to do so, we proceeded to use that route," he said.
The route was one of several options recommended to the Standing Committee by the Legal and Constitution Committee, headed by Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith.
The committee's membership also includes the party's representative at the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, who explained at yesterday's briefing that they considered a number of points from members, all lawyers, before deciding on the options offered to the Standing Committee.
"At the end of the day, we put a number of recommendations to the Standing Committee, and the end result is a list acceptable to all the candidates," Senator Tavares-Finson explained.
"The position taken by the Standing Committee, in my mind, is one that preserves the integrity of the process. There were alternatives, but the process has been preserved by the inclusive position. It is hoped that once the general secretary completes his work, the parties will sign off on the list (of delegates), the list will be presented to the Electoral Office (of Jamaica) and we will have an election that is free and fair: one man, one vote; one woman, one vote," Tavares Finson said.