Wed | Nov 22, 2017

The Jamaica Labour Party - not a good look

Published:Monday | March 2, 2015 | 2:00 AMDr Michael Abrahams

I clearly remember listening to and enjoying the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) anthem as a youth, as it would be played on radio and television during election campaigns. Part of the chorus goes:
"Remember Bustamante, he served you well,
Stand up, Jamaicans, when you hear the bell."
I would like to change the lyrics of that song to:
"Remember Bustamante, he served you well,
Prepare for mix-up when you hear the bell (ding)."
I am convinced that 'rae rae' is imprinted into the DNA of Labourites. From the days of Alexander Bustamante, when he made Rose Leon cry and leave the JLP to form her own party, to the present turbulence, the party continues to nurture its penchant for washing its dirty merinos, ganzies and 'draws' in public.
During Edward 'One Don' Seaga's tenure as leader of the party, the public spats were legendary. I can recall the 'Gang of Five' and the 'Western Eleven'. And who can forget such memorable quotes like Mr Seaga encouraging his deserters to "light a candle, sing a Sankey and find your way back home"?

I also recall Karl Samuda, after leaving the party, admonishing some of the Labourites remaining in the fold and referring to them as "wimps, lackeys and yes-men" - before returning to the party. Whether he became a wimp, lackey or yes-man on his return remains uncertain. In addition to the verbal attacks, there was the incident where Pearnel Charles was physically assaulted by JLP supporters at a party conference at the National Arena.
Then there is Bruce Golding leaving the party, founding the National Democratic Movement (NDM), suddenly leaving the NDM and returning to the JLP, becoming its leader, then prime minister, and resigning after the Dudus-Manatt-Tivoli imbroglio. Andrew Holness then succeeded him and, for reasons I still don't comprehend, called a general election - with the Dudus extradition saga still fresh in the nation's psyche - which the party lost miserably.
But wait, there's more. Audley Shaw challenged Holness for the position of party leader, and the bell started ringing like crazy. Holness said that Shaw's team was "second-rate", Babsy Grange and Joan Gordon-Webley got into a spat, Samuda fell out with his councillor, Holness claimed that Shaw stole his plan, and Pearnel Charles publicly expressed disgust with Ruddy Spencer, after he made a remark about his delegates being "contaminated" by others at a conference.
Now the resignation letter fiasco is further deepening the divide within the party, as we chomp on our popcorn and try not to choke, while watching the sordid events unfold in real time. I think the goings-on should be televised and called 'The Real Labourites of Belmont Road'.

We have seen Arthur Williams' involvement in constructing a letter that was later used by Holness to 'resign' him and Christopher Tufton. After the Constitutional Court ruled that the use of the signed and undated letters to resign the gentlemen was unconstitutional, Mr Holness went to church and repented. If the Holy Ghost power moves like a magnet, Mr Holness must be made of bagasse board, because after the church visit, he is now appealing the court's decision. His pirouetting on the matter makes a Bolshoi Ballet ballerina look like the Paul Bogle statue in St Thomas.
In the meantime, several back stories add to the intrigue: Karl Samuda saying that the party is "not ready", Delroy Chuck advising that Mr Holness should step down, Daryl Vaz publicly displaying his lack of confidence in Mr Holness' ability to lead by asking Bruce Golding and Edward Seaga for assistance, the alleged 'murder plot' that is now being alleged to have originated from the JLP headquarters, and now Robert Montague accusing Babsy Grange of being dishonest following remarks that she made about Mr Holness' decision to appeal the court's ruling.
As a satirist and columnist, I am grateful for the material that the JLP has provided me with. But, as a Jamaican citizen, I am also distressed.

The country needs a strong, united and credible Opposition if it is to progress. We need a cohesive force to keep the government in check. The JLP needs to understand that it is helping to keep the People's National Party (PNP) in power. The discord among the Labourites gives the Comrades the appearance of a well-oiled machine by comparison. If the PNP has any conscience, it ought to send the JLP a beautiful bouquet of flowers accompanied by a huge box of chocolates and a lovey 'thank you' card.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.