BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — publications firstname.lastname@example.org
ANDREW Holness's detractors inside the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) started planning to unseat him six months after the party lost the December 2011 general election.
But the Opposition leader said he received word of the plot in February this year, resulting in his deciding not to release a strategic review of the election defeat as his opponents were planning to use it to disrupt the party.
"I took the decision that it's not fair to the party, it's not fair to the people who took their time and effort to write the report that it would now become the subject of a political football," Holness told senior journalists during the Jamaica Observer Press Club last Thursday.
Holness, veteran JLP parliamentarians Karl Samuda, and Olivia "Babsy" Grange, gave more information on the leadership challenge as they pointed to fellow JLP Member of Parliament Ed Bartlett's interview on CVMTV's Direct last Wednesday night.
"Last night I watched Direct and I heard for myself, one of his (Holness's) chief lieutenants state that the strategy to have him removed or to go in search of a new leader, or to challenge his leadership and authority, started six months after the general election of 2011," Samuda said.
"I really didn't believe in the early stages, when it was suggested that he (Holness) was not enjoying the support of a number of our key players who form the shadow cabinet, some in sensitive positions within the party. I was a total disbeliever, I must confess," Samuda added.
Holness has been accused by his challenger Audley Shaw of not sharing with the party and Jamaica the strategic review he (Holness) commissioned after the election, which saw the JLP becoming the first one-term Government since Independence.
Giving a chronological outline of the events leading to his decision, Holness said he announced the review on May 1, 2012.
Before that he had met with and got the advice of two of the party's former leaders -- Bruce Golding and Edward Seaga.
"I told the Standing Committee of the plan, it was endorsed. I asked for no funding for it. I went and raised the funding independently," Holness said.
The commissioners, he said, did two studies. One in which they interviewed the top leadership of the party -- past and present -- private sector individuals, journalists, civil society and women's groups, and other people.
The second study was an internal review of the middle level of the party, which sampled two or three persons in the constituency leadership of almost every constituency.
The analysis of both studies was done by the commission and steps were taken to ensure that the studies met academic and research methodology rigour, so that they could stand up to scrutiny.
Holness said he took the "completed high-level report" to the party's Standing Committee retreat in February 2013 and revealed sections of the study. This was after he had shared it with the party general secretary.
The Standing Committee, he said, debated the point as to whether or not the report should be made public. "Some persons felt that the report should not be made public because it is a strategic report meant to give the party a direction and an understanding of certain issues," Holness said.
"Others felt you should release the report because once it is given to anyone in the party, widely circulated, it is going to find its way into the media, so may as well you give out the report.
"There were others who felt that what you should do is give the executive summary and bring the media and have a discussion with them."
Eventually, the retreat agreed on releasing the executive summary and discussing the contents with the media.
"But before we did that it was agreed that the report should be made available to the officers generally, and then it would cascade down to the heads of the affiliates, the area councils and the caretakers and we have a general discussion," Holness explained.
"Because the purpose of the report was to start the process of transforming the culture of the party, so it is something that you have to do in a spirit of co-operation and where people are willing to take an introspective look at themselves, a reflective look at the party and say yes, we are at a point to change," he added.
"Within two or three days of the Standing Committee retreat, which was held at the Law Faculty of the University of the West Indies, I got a call from a journalist telling me of some meeting held in Montego Bay, where the decision was taken to challenge me and that part of the strategy was to use the report," Holness revealed.
"I went to great length with that journalist to explain that the report didn't have anything in there that was damaging to me or to anyone, that it is to create this facilitatory process of change. That didn't change the headline of the article that came out in the newspaper -- 'Trouble in the JLP, Holness doesn't want to release report'," he said.
That, he said, got
"I had invested so much in preparing a framework that requires the genuine participation of everyone to make a culture shift, an institutional shift for the party, and... there are persons who would want to take that effort and roll it into a political game and undermine the value of the work that we have done," he said, adding that that was when he decided not to release the report.
That decision was supported by Samuda.
"When it came to his attention, after the document was prepared without an executive summary, he took the intelligent decision," Samuda said.
"Clearly we had to take [a] step back and say, let us review this thing very carefully as to strategy, what do we do? Do we launch into this full explanation when indeed information had by then reached him that there was this strategy in place to have him removed?" Samuda said.
"I've been around long enough and I've been close enough to leaders... to understand that whatever you do in that job you must protect the interest of the party," Samuda added.