THE Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) democratic maturity will be severely tested today when its Central Executive meets at party headquarters on Belmont Road in Kingston to choose officers for seven important housekeeping posts.
Although only 160-170 delegates will decide the fate of the candidates, a much larger army of curious Labourites is expected to descend on the premises.
Outgoing General Secretary Aundre Franklin confirmed Friday that the private meeting will start at 10:00 am. Results are likely by early afternoon to allow the delegates an early return to their destinations across the island.
The most interesting races are those for chairman and general secretary.
Four persons are contesting the chairman's position — former deputy leader for the Corporate Area, MP Derrick Smith; former speaker of the House of Representatives, MP Delroy Chuck; current acting chairman Senator Robert Montague; and member of parliament and former minister of tourism Edmund Bartlett.
Montague seemed like a shoo-in a month ago, after acting in the position since Mike Henry's withdrawal a year ago. However, he will now have to contend with Bartlett, with Smith being the dark horse in the race.
North Central St James MP Dr Horace Chang was also favourite for the post of general secretary until sole competitor, Joan Gordon Webley, started picking up momentum weeks ago which, she expects, will propel her into the position.
Franklin himself seemed to be singing the blues after stepping down from the general secretary post to compete for deputy chairman, a post which could well go to his challenger, Senator Arthur Williams. Franklin was the favourite for the post, although some delegates are disappointed with his performance as general secretary. However, the winner will depend on how the delegates react to the deputy leaders' election fiasco at the party's 69th annual conference on November 18 at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
Two persons seem already elected — Karl Samuda as treasurer, and his former junior minister in the last JLP Administration, Michael Stern, as deputy treasurer.
Samuda's election seemed assured Friday after JLP leader Andrew Holness' handpicked candidate, businessman Phillip Henriques, announced his withdrawal from the race. But some delegates are hoping that Henriques can be encouraged to rejoin the race. Henriques' decision led to MP Gregory Mair's withdrawal from the race for deputy treasurer, leaving Stern the sole candidate for that post.
Six persons are challenging for four deputy general secretary posts — former MP and junior minister Dr St Aubyn Bartlett, who is a brother of Edmund Bartlett; former KSAC councillor Audley Gordon; former mayor of May Pen, Milton Brown; St James Central MP/caretaker Homer Davies; North West St Catherine MP/caretaker, Dr Sandra Nesbeth; and MP for South Central St Catherine and former mayor of Spanish Town, Dr Andrew Wheatley.
Dr Wheatley seems the only safe candidate in this field and Dr Barlett should join him, with the other four candidates vying for the final two spots. It should be noted, however, that Gordon, Brown and Davis should have strong support from their parish council colleagues, while Dr Nesbeth has the backing of the St Catherine delegates.
Six persons are vying for the five trustees posts — former deputy leader Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, who should be easily elected; former Health Minister MP Ruddy Spencer; former Attorney General Oswald Harding; veteran politician Enid Bennett; Dr Neville Gallimore; and Dorothy Carter-Bradford.
Delegates include the party's 63 MPs and MP/caretakers; 15 representatives of trade union affiliate the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union; three representatives each from six other affiliates, including G2K; all eight Opposition senators; three persons from each of the 13 parish councils; and a maximum four persons from each of the four area councils, excluding persons already named.
The Central Executive generally meets once every quarter, but today's event marks its annual general meeting which usually follows the annual conference.
The meeting is also expected to discuss a number of other party issues, including proposals for replacing the policy of each of the four area councils selecting their own deputy leader, with election of the four deputy leaders by islandwide delegates.
The four deputy leaders are Audley Shaw (Area Council 3), Dr Christopher Tufton (Area Council 4), James Robertson (Area Council 2), and Desmond McKenzie (Area Council 1).