ANDREW Holness has moved to mollify growing tension in the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), fuelled by the prospect of a challenge to his leadership in November, by calling on the party's institutional mechanisms to review the issues and advise the leadership.
The party's Legal and Constitution Committee was meeting up to last night at JLP headquarters on Belmont Road in Kingston in a bid to resolve the issue of the accreditation of delegates who will be able to vote at the conference in November, while the Disputes Resolution Committee has been charged with looking at recent heated statements and confrontations, including Monday night's verbal clash between member of parliament for Central St Catherine Olivia 'Babsy' Grange and caretaker for East Rural St Andrew Joan Gordon-Webley.
In addition, Holness has called on the newly recharged Electoral Commission, led by attorney-at-law George Soutar, to review all recent statements related to the possible challenge, to ensure that they fit with party standards.
The most pressing issue yesterday, however, was the question of the registration of constituencies and delegates, and whether those constituencies which did not meet the May registration deadline should be allowed to participate in a possible November poll, if Deputy Leader Audley Shaw decides to challenge Holness.
Party insiders have insisted that it should not be a major problem to resolve, as the majority of the constituencies did meet the May 31 deadline. The original registration cut-off date of March 31 was extended by a grace period to the end of May to accommodate those constituencies which had failed to meet the original deadline.
But several constituencies, including Shaw's North East Manchester, still failed to meet the deadline, and some members are insisting that all those which failed to meet the extended deadline should not be given a reprieve.
The Jamaica Observer has learnt that the issue may have been sparked by a comment from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, which suggested that the non-compliant constituencies could be accommodated in November. But this could not be confirmed last night as she was unavailable for comment.
However, among those who are insisting that there should be no reprieve is South West St Catherine member of parliament Everald Warmington, whose injunction against unregistered constituencies and candidates for deputy leader almost thwarted last year's conference.
Last night, JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang confirmed that a number of constituencies did not satisfy the normal administrative requirements for the participation of their delegates in the voting process, and that the Legal and Constitution Committee has been asked to look into the matter and give its advice.
"I am confident that we will have a satisfactory conclusion to that matter, and we expect to have the list of the delegates ready by Monday (which is the current deadline)," Chang said.
In terms of the threat of increasing tension among supporters of Holness and Shaw, Chang noted that Holness met with Grange Tuesday night, and with Gordon-Webley yesterday, to impress upon them the need to uphold certain standards in meeting the expectations of the public, during the period leading up to the annual conference in November.
Chang confirmed that Holness met with him, as well as Chairman Robert Montague and Deputy Chairman Aundre Franklin, during which it was agreed that Monday night's clash between Grange and Gordon-Webley would be referred to the Dispute Resolution Committee.
"We understand the passion and energy generated by political contests and party members and functionaries are asked to ensure that good behaviour is maintained at all times," Dr Chang said.