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JLP chairman rips Babsy for misleading party members

Published:Thursday | February 26, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
JLP Chairman Robert Montague
Olivia 'Babsy' Grange

Chairman of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Robert Montague yesterday launched a broadside on veteran member Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, as a move to muzzle party members went awry in the aftermath of the decision by its leader Andrew Holness to appeal a ruling by the Constitutional Court.

In a trail of emails, copies of which were received by The Gleaner, Montague described as "dishonest and misleading" a claim by Grange that Holness' decision to appeal the ruling had been discussed at Monday night's weekly meeting of the Standing Committee of the JLP.

It was Grange who hit the 'send' button, triggering the email flurry.

"You are asked to refrain from making comments to the press as this matter is a legal issue and the attorneys will provide any clarification needed," stated Grange.

Montague refused to hold back as he chided Grange: "At no time during the last Standing Committee meeting this was discussed," he said. "I chaired the meeting. It is dishonest so to suggest."

Added Montague: "We as officers must be careful how we place persons in an uncomfortable position. I have been receiving many calls from the press, Standing Committee and Central Executive members. I cannot allow this misrepresentation of the facts to stand."

Montague called for Grange to: "Kindly take the needed steps to have the matter correctly communicated to all (whom) you have mislead."

He said that while he agreed with Grange on the matter of public silence, "I cannot allow you to mislead the officers and members of the party ... this correction must be done immediately."

Montague also chastised Grange for breaching party protocol.

"Furthermore, you did not discuss with me this release," he said. "Please do not in future do this ... ; if you had done what is established and right, we would not be here. Please have this matter corrected. Thank you."

The Gleaner understands that the leadership of the JLP is up in arms as a press release announcing Holness decision was sent under the JLP banner, although the matter was not discussed at Monday night's Standing Committee meeting.

There were indications yesterday that the membership of the party was reeling over Holness' decision to appeal the Constitutional Court ruling that he erred in using pre-signed, undated resignation letters to oust two members from the Senate.

With public debate under way about Holness' apparent about face, after previously apologising before a church gathering where he acknowledged making a mistake in using the letters to boot Arthur Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton from the Senate, Grange rushed to silence members.

In her email dispatched to spokespersons yesterday, Grange said: "See release below, for your information. Please note that Standing Committee was briefed on this matter on Monday, February 23, 2015."

However, Dr Horace Chang, the party's general secretary, was quick to refute Grange's claim in a follow-up email.

"Correct guidance but the matter was not discussed," he stated in a terse response.

It was at this point that Grange backtracked, admitting that she was not present at the Standing Committee meeting.

"Unfortunately, I was unavoidably absent from [the] Standing Committee on Monday, but I was advised that Standing Committee was briefed," she stated.

"Thank you for the correction. I am, however, still asking that persons refrain from commenting on the matter in the media at this time," Grange added.

But despite the apology tendered by Grange, Montague would not be silenced on the email error.