BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
CHRISTIANA, Manchester — Audley Shaw says that if he achieves nothing else by his proposed challenge of Andrew Holness for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), he is determined to help establish a culture of internal democracy.
"If that is the only thing that will be (said)... that I accomplish by this challenge I am going to make sure (of) the vision of bringing democracy to the Jamaica Labour Party," Shaw told scores of his North East Manchester constituency delegates, party workers, and hardcore supporters.
"We need to respect internal democracy in our political party," the 61-year-old member of parliament and former finance minister said at what he described as the first of several "consultations" regarding his proposal to challenge Holness.
His audience included chairman of the JLP's Area Three, Winston Maragh, former member of parliament for North West Clarendon Michael Stern as well as several divisional councillors and divisional caretakers, who all endorsed his candidacy during the event at Holmwood Technical High School auditorium Wednesday evening.
In reinforcing his argument for more transparent democracy within the JLP — in the face of fierce criticism from some that his challenge will lead to disunity — Shaw drew comparison with the ruling People's National Party (PNP).
"In the past 25 years, Labour Party has only served the government for four years," said Shaw, "PNP has served for 21 years and yet they have had either three or four elections for party leader in that time. Why can't we be democratic in the Jamaica Labour Party?"
Shaw said that "although it is expressly written" in the JLP constitution "that we are a democratic party and therefore the delegates of this party, from time to time, ought to be given the opportunity to decide who their leader should be" there had only been two "real" leadership contests in the history of the party.
He identified those as between former JLP leader and prime minister Edward Seaga and Wilton Hill in 1974 and Mike Henry's failed challenge to Seaga in the early 2000s.
He criticised the practise of parliamentarians choosing a leader from among themselves as had been the preferred option for the JLP since the exit of founder Sir Alexander Bustamante.
"Mark my words when I tell you, it is a bad practice when a few members of Parliament feel that we can go in a room and decide who must lead us, it is not good for the democracy of the Jamaica Labour Party," he said.