No plan to remove Holness, supporters told

JLP relief

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter

Saturday, August 08, 2015

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SUPPORTERS who crowded the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) headquarters at Belmont Road in Kingston yesterday breathed a sigh of relief after being assured that there was no plan to remove Andrew Holness as leader of the Opposition.

The crowd also harshly criticised the media for what they saw as creating hysteria around the agenda for the meeting, by reporting that there would have been a challenge to Holness's position as opposition leader.

In a brief synopsis of the six-hour-long meeting of the party's members of parliament (MPs), Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives Derrick Smith said that after the lengthy talks the MPs decided to continue discussions next week.

But the question on everyone's lips was what were they really discussing.

Before leaving the venue, both Daryl Vaz, the MP for Portland Western, and Delroy Chuck, who represents St Andrew North Eastern, told assertive journalists -- who pressed for a reason why they had a six-hour wait for a rationalisation of the talks -- that they had discussed mainly electoral issues.

Journalists were asked to await Smith's reflections on the talks. But, after his terse response failed to produce any fireworks, coverage of the meeting ended in an anticlimax.

"After six hours, we have decided to continue the meeting sometime, next week," Smith said.

Pressed on the concerns raised, Smith said that he couldn't address issues from a meeting at which discussions had not yet concluded.

Asked specifically if the meeting addressed the issue of a challenge to Holness's position as leader of the Opposition, Smith said: "Not that I know of, and, as I said, the meeting continues next week."

He said that the meeting was "spirited", but explained that it would be difficult for 20 MPs to "sit in a room and the meeting is not spirited".

Smith said that he was not aware that the police were present on the party's premises during the meeting, nor could he say what could have warranted their presence.

The Jamaica Observer noticed a police inspector and three constables present. Sources told the newspaper that they were called after a large group of Holness's supporters, mainly from his St Andrew West Central constituency, descended on the premises shouting their approval of his leadership.

The media stayed on for almost another hour to await Holness's departure.

He told the press that the party's level of support continues to be reassuring, and the discussions would continue next week. He left amidst shouts of approval from the crowd.

The Observer was told that of the 21 JLP MPs only Edmund Bartlett, who represents St James East Central, was absent from the meeting.

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