BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment email@example.com
JAMAICA Labour Party (JLP) Leader Andrew Holness said there is no truth to claims made by leadership aspirant Audley Shaw that he has not been a very visible Opposition leader.
According to Holness, the accusation is "another narrative created by persons wanting to challenge my leadership".
To support his argument, Holness pointed to the speech he made to the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, which earned him the ire of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who labelled him an enemy of the State.
"I don't recall any other leader of the Opposition being so addressed, so obviously something I did was really stoking the PNP," Holness told the Jamaica Observer Press Club held at the newspaper's head offices in Kingston last Thursday.
Holness also cited his address to the JLP's annual conference last November which resulted in the ruling People's National Party (PNP) calling a press conference to respond to what he had said.
"Obviously I had crafted my speech to tackle the foundations of their argument," he said.
Holness said his presence on the ground was not as noticed before the leadership challenge.
"I keep saying to the persons in the media who talk about visibility, just tell me one issue on which I have not spoken, or the Labour Party has not spoken," he said. "I don't jump up and make ah whole heap a noise and gwaan bad, but I have solid positions that are reasoned".
Meanwhile, Holness's confidant and JLP stalwart Karl Samuda took JLP deputy leader and former MP Christopher Tufton to task for describing as a stupid strategy, Samuda's explanation as to why the JLP was not more forceful in its criticisms of the People's National Party (PNP) Government.
"What a naïve little chap," Samuda said. "The fact of the matter is that, knowing me and knowing this party, you think we would ease up on the PNP at any time? It is just that we are responsible and behave in a responsible way."
Two Sundays ago, Samuda had told a JLP meeting in Kingston, that Shaw and other officers of the party supporting his leadership challenge breached a collective agreement on the party's strategy in dealing with the Government.
"That strategy was laid out within a time frame, what we were going to do and at the end of the period we would begin a process of accelerating the pace against the People's National Party," Samuda told the meeting.
"We have just reached that stage, after two years, just reached the stage where we were going to launch a serious attack on the credibility of the PNP, when I heard that we were to be disrupted with a challenge," he added.
Last Thursday, Samuda said that Tufton should not use a position that is an established strategy and reduce it to this mockery.
Meanwhile, Holness said the JLP must not become a distraction for the failures of the PNP.
"So the PNP may do something wrong, but when we go to criticise we do it in such a way that the value of the criticism is lost to the style in which the criticism is made, and that is what we have changed," he told the Press Club.
According to Holness, the JLP has now taken on a more strategic approach in its criticism of the Government.
"So instead of running go out there and creating hell and mayhem for the editorial to be 'JLP create obstacles for growth', or the 'JLP blocks government policy', that cannot be the editorial anymore. When we say it is the Government's fault they can't turn back and point [at] us," he argued.
He cited the issue of unemployment, noting that when he was education minister he put in place policies that improved CXC passes from 6,000 to close to 10,000.
This, he said, meant more students qualified for university to go into the job market. However, they can't find any jobs now.
"So when I say it is the PNP's fault, I want to see which man is going to say we had anything to do with it. They had two clear years to implement their policies -- their JEEP and Jamaica Employ -- and they have not done it," Holness said.
"Don't blame me, blame the PNP, and that is strategy," Holness disclosed.
"Now, those persons who want to take advantage of the sacrifice that we have made and the plans that we have laid, for their own personal benefits, the delegates of the party are very perceptive and they see through them," he said.