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Leadership crisis - Senior Comrades, Labourites blast party heads as clueless and inept

Published:Sunday | October 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
People's National Party president, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, and Jamaica Labour Party head, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness. - File

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

The leaders of the two major political parties are being exposed to scorching internal criticisms from some seemingly nervous party members as the country reaches the midterm mark in the electoral cycle.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, the People's National Party (PNP) president since 2006, and Andrew Holness, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader since 2011, have been accused by senior members of their respective parties of failing to adequately galvanise members of their organisations who are in the throes of midterm malaise.

The political firepower of the diehards has been unleashed on the rival leaders ahead of the today's start of the publication of the findings of a Gleaner-commissioned national poll and with local government elections looming in next six months.


While Holness has been accused of being lethargic in mobilising the forces within the JLP, leaving too many critical members out of the loop, members of the PNP charge that Simpson Miller is too hands-off in her approach to leadership.

Simpson Miller is under fire for what some senior Comrades view as a hands-off approach to leadership, evident in her lacklustre attendance at critical meetings of the PNP executive. For some complaining Comrades, there is a paralysis of leadership in the party, and recently installed general secretary, Paul Burke, hinted as much in his report to the private session of the party's 76th annual conference held recently.

"Comrades, respectfully, I do not wish to commit them to writing for distribution at this time and will communicate verbally to the issues as I see them," Burke reportedly told the Comrades.

He was blunt in emphasising that the party needs to increase its work at all levels, at the secretariat, through its commissions and, in particular, its work on the ground.

"Our message must be clear and consistent - the party must become much more attractive and we must recruit new members in a manner and in numbers like we have never done before," was the charge which Burke reportedly gave to the conference.

Simpson Miller reportedly attended only three of 30 meetings of the PNP executive over the past year, but Raymond Pryce, one of three PNP deputy general secretaries, said that was an open secret.

Repeated efforts to reach PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill and Burke were unsuccessful last week.

In the meantime, Holness is being blamed by Labourites for failing to bring all elements of the party machinery together with one cohesive programme. For some complaining members of the JLP, this is a fundamental issue. It's understood that Holness could face some heat at today's meeting of the party's Central Executive.

The meeting is being seen as a first step in ensuring that the JLP presents a united front going forward, and an email for the party's secretariat, sent out last week, indicated that "it is very important that members make every effort to be at this meeting", which is to be held at the Shortwood Teachers' College.

According to JLP sources, some parliamentarians who had supported Holness a year ago when he was challenged by Audley Shaw for the leadership of the party are now loud in voicing their disappointment with his style.

The sources say some senior parliamentarians who backed Holness have penned a letter complaining that he has not seen it fit to accept a request to meet with them to address their concerns.


They are also troubled that under Holness, the JLP has been unable to raise funds and is yet to settle on candidate selection for some critical, marginal areas.

"There is a willingness to work but the problem is that there is a unity issue and willingness to work, but it is not holistic," said one highly placed JLP member.

"Many believe that the party leader has failed to unite the party one year after the internal elections, too many are still out of the loop trying to get in," said another.

But JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang told The Sunday Gleaner that while there might be a smattering of talk, it is nothing else. "The mood of the party this year is that there should be no disturbance of the internal structure of the party," said Chang.

"Officially, we are less than six months from local government elections, and what is really happening is that all sides are concerned about the entire party being united going in November's annual and the new year," added Chang.