Editorial: The JLP’s task
Andrew Holness has cleared a hurdle. Yet, there is no certainty that he is now safe and the problems of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) are settled. The situation, therefore, still demands extraordinary leadership from Mr Holness and a willingness to compromise on the part of his detractors.
Both Mr Holness and his party should establish a specific and tight deadline to achieve progress on these fronts in the absence of which they should move to either of two options:
1. Mr Holness pursue our earlier suggestion that he subject his leadership to a plebiscite among all registered members of the party, with a benchmark vote below which he would not stay in the job; and
2. That he is challenged by someone who believes that he or she would be a better leader, much in the manner of Audley Shaw 15 months ago.
reasons for solutions
We offer these solutions for three reasons, the most important that we believe the JLP to be an important institution to Jamaica's democracy that, up to now, rests on the foundation of two vibrant political parties. An unfocused JLP, plagued by infighting and distrusted by voters, undermines that democracy by ensuring an almost de facto one-party arrangement that perpetuates the election and rule of the People's National Party (PNP).
Second, there was, after Monday's meeting of the JLP's parliamentary group, at which 13, or 62 per cent, of its 21 members voted to retain Mr Holness in the constitutional position of leader of the Opposition, no sign that the various factions had shifted their position. In the event, we fear that in the absence of substantial change in Mr Holness' style and manner, including in the way he confronts the PNP administration, he can expect continued sniping, and snipping at his heels, if not open disgruntlement, from those in the party, such as Delroy Chuck, Daryl Vaz and James Robertson, who are hostile to his leadership.
Then there remains unresolved the matter that sparked this latest crisis in the JLP: Mr Holness' attempt to use pre-signed letters of resignation, and authorisations for their use, to eject Arthur Williams and Christopher Tufton from the Senate. Jamaica's courts, at first instance and at appeal, held that approach to be unconstitutional.
In face of the rulings, Messrs Williams and Tufton have not been satisfied with a moral victory. They have claimed their seats in the Senate, assured of the fact, unless the matter is now taken to the Privy Council and it rules in their favour, they can't be removed before the end of the life of this Parliament unless they resign under their own hand and letters sent directly to the governor general.
Mr Holness, in the circumstance, can't be certain of their loyalty to him or the policies in which he believes and to which he attaches imprimatur and wishes to pursue in Parliament.
As the leader of the party, the onus is on Mr Holness to reach out, stretch, even to embrace, without dagger, those of his colleagues with whom he is uncomfortable. But he can do something else: engage his party in deep policy introspection and the fashioning of big, doable ideas to offer to the Jamaican people, not mindless criticism of government policies.
Jamaicans should know what the JLP stands for, not only what it's against.