BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor -- publications email@example.com
Andrew Holness, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange and Karl Samuda are not fond of the leadership challenge now consuming the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). However, they are clear on one thing — the party will emerge stronger from the contest.
"The contest has had its advantages for the party. It has certainly stirred [the] interest of the worker base and specifically the delegates base of the party; there's no question about that," Holness said during last Thursday's sitting of the Jamaica Observer Press Club.
"I believe that there is going to be, as a result of this campaign, a delegates base which is more understanding of the issues, both the internal and the national issues, and that is a great advantage for the political party," added Holness, the JLP leader who is being challenged by Audley Shaw, one of the Opposition party's four deputy leaders.
"It also gives us a chance to test our organisational machinery and to refine it. I certainly have been doing that, and I think that that will yield great benefits for the party when we come to national elections," Holness argued.
Grange, a veteran JLP parliamentarian and Cabinet minister in previous JLP administrations, concurred.
"This election is the most defining moment in the life of the Jamaica Labour Party," she said. "I think the party will be strengthened."
Grange reiterated that she thought the timing of the challenge was wrong, "not because I feel that one should not have a challenge, I just feel that the timing was wrong because we should, at this time, spend our efforts in addressing the problems of the country and the weakness of the present administration in governing the country".
Grange, however, was convinced that the election will bring together the people who are loyal to the party.
"It is going to be the settlement of the argument," she said.
Samuda, in reinforcing the point of the party's ability to treat wounds, pointed to his own experience of leaving the JLP for the People's National Party in the 1990s, only to return to the JLP, eventually became the party's general secretary and served as a Cabinet minister in the last JLP Government.
But even as they are sure that the party will be able to unite after the vote, they highlighted the concern that the challenge has created inside the organisation.
"Delegates are concerned that we are burning up too much of our energy in pursuing the internal contest, and that even though we might very well create a far more active and primed party base, we may deplete our resources coming to fight in a general or local government election," Holness said.
"So I have had to bear that in mind and moderate what I do, because the ultimate goal is not just to be leader of the Opposition or leader of a political party. The ultimate goal is to be in a position where we can help the people of Jamaica," he added.
"I want to assure the delegates that as leader of the party, now and after the contest, we will do everything in our powers to ensure that all Labourites are brought back into the JLP family and that we find ways of very quickly healing any conflicts, any disputes, any rifts, to ensure that we have a unified political organisation ready to face the Government," Holness said.
"I want to assure the delegates that as leader now, and leader after the contest, that my hands are extended to everyone, and that I appeal to those who support me and to those who don't to be prepared to work together as one family to return the Jamaica Labour Party to the Government of our great nation," he added.