A confident Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader, Andrew Holness, last night assured Labourites supporting the challenge to his leadership that there should be no fear of vindictiveness towards them.
"I am not going to do anything that will destroy the party, even under challenge. So all of those who have retreated from the party and gone to set up another tent, I say come back home," Holness told a special meeting of the party's Area Council One (Kingston and St Andrew) at the Girl Guides headquarters in Kingston where he was unanimously nominated for re-election.
"Since I have been in this party, all my actions have been to help to build the party," the Opposition Leader told a huge crowd of supporters who crammed into the premises, tooting horns, ringing bells and shouting "Andrew! Andrew!" in a massive display of support for the West Central St Andrew MP.
"I hear some man start getting nervous, talking about 'vindictive' and they going leave and all kinds of foolishness. Stay where you are, man. Nobody nah trouble yuh. And I say to all Labourites, if you are on this side or you are outside, after this, every Labourite must come inside under the big tent and make us work out our differences," he said.
"There is one party, not two. And let me tell you this, you hear all kind of talk about my leadership: My leadership is just and fair, because all of them now who are fighting me, I have extended my hand to them and ensured that they are well taken care of within the party," Holness told the crowd.
In addition to the leader's speech, the meeting was punctuated with his nomination, unopposed, as Area Council One's candidate for leadership at the election scheduled for the annual conference in November.
Holness was nominated by Deputy Leader for Area Council One Desmond McKenzie, who was also returned unopposed, and seconded by Councillor Beverly Prince, who won the Cassia Park Division in the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) from the ruling People's National Party (PNP) in the August by-election.
Another highlight was the stirring speech by JLP treasurer and spokesman on Transport and Works, Karl Samuda, indicating that Holness was being undermined by his challengers, prior to their declaration earlier this month.
Samuda said there was nothing but praise for Holness' "depth and preparation" in his presentations to the Cabinet while he was prime minister, and to the shadow Cabinet, as leader of the opposition, while plans were privately being made to remove him as leader.
However, he said that his support for Holness has never faltered, as he felt that he had the intellectual capacity and the qualities needed to lead the party and transform the country's politics.
"I have been waiting for somebody like Andrew for years, and me nah stop now," Samuda told the noisy overflow crowd of delegates.
Other speakers included Derrick Smith, MP for North West St Andrew.
The event ended with a stirring performance of gospel songs by Sister Scully.
The JLP's Area Council One comprises all 15 constituencies in the Corporate Area, five of which are represented by the party. That makes it the second strongest to Area Council Two (St Catherine, St Thomas, Portland and St Mary), with seven seats, and which has also expressed support for Holness.