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'My heart is full’ - JLP imbroglio hurting 'One Don' Seaga

Published:Sunday | March 1, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Douglas Vaz

The longest-serving leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Edward Seaga, is hurting over the difficulties facing his beloved party but appears not yet ready to speak.

With the party deeply divided over its leader Andrew Holness' use of pre-signed resignation letters to remove Dr Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams from the Senate and the subsequent court ruling that the move was unconstitutional, compounded by the decision of Holness to belatedly appeal the decision, our news team sought Seaga's views on the latest development.

"I would dearly like to give the comment requested by you on what advice I would give on the Senate matter, because my heart is full with what is going on," Seaga said in an emailed response to our news team last Friday.

"But I chose not to do so, for fear that I could breach the principle of sub judice which could influence the view of the judiciary, and this I could not do," added Seaga in his brief response.

Seaga, who led the JLP to election victory in 1980 and 1983, with defeats in 1976, 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2002, left the door open for future comments saying, "perhaps another time".

Last week, as it became clear that the JLP was sliding into another major crisis over Holness' decision to file the appeal hours after a meeting of the Standing Committee where party officers were not informed of what many senior Labourites describe as an 'about-face', our news team attempted to test the pulse of many of the men and women who had served the JLP for years and are no longer active.

Efforts to get a comment from the man who replaced Seaga as JLP leader, Bruce Golding, were unsuccessful, while many other JLP stalwarts refused to speak on the record.

However, one former Cabinet minister in the Seaga administration, Douglas Vaz, said the best advice he could offer to Holness had already been given by sitting Member of Parliament Delroy Chuck.

"He is making a perfect ass of himself and everything he touches is turning to dust. He needs to take the advice of Delroy Chuck, and find a comfortable way of easing himself out," said Vaz.

"He must be smart enough to know that he is single-handedly wrecking the party," added Vaz, whose son Daryl, the West Portland Member of Parliament, has been out of the leadership of the party since 2013 when he publicly backed Audley Shaw in an unsuccessful challenge of Holness.

Another retired senior member of the JLP, who asked not to be named, blamed the current political problems of the party on Golding.

"He unleashed Holness on the JLP without thought, just like he unleashed Manatt, Phelps and Phillips on the party without thought. Why couldn't he have allowed a leadership challenge to take place like the PNP does? Now Holness feels he has a right to the party and no one must challenge him," said the one-time officer from rural Jamaica.

He argued that Holness is taking advice from the same people who destroyed Seaga.

"The whole Jamaica knows them, and those are the people advising him and in his corner. He saw what they did to Seaga, and he is allowing them to do the same thing to him."

Another JLP elder, who also asked not to be named, argued that the current imbroglio could not have happened under (the first JLP leader, Sir Alexander) Bustamante.

"Bustamante would have called everybody to Tucker Avenue. He would have asked what the hell was going on, and all the arguments would be settled there. Men would shake hands when it was all over, and women would be kissed on their cheeks," said the elder statesman.

The tape used by the JLP to cover over the cracks that remained after the 2013 leadership challenge started to peel recently after the constitutional court ruled that the letters to remove Tufton and Williams were unconstitutional.

The rift widened last week after Holness filed an appeal of the decision of the Constitutional Court and one of his palace guards, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, sought to muzzle party officers while claiming that the Standing Committee had been briefed on the action when it met less than 24 hours before the action was taken before the court.

With general secretary, Dr Horace Chang, and the party's chairman, Robert Bobby' Montague, who has remained above the fray, challenging Grange on the claim that the Standing Committee had been briefed, the flux deepened.

Holness has also faced a backlash on social media, with many persons questioning his credibility following a conditional apology to the nation that he delivered at the Boulevard Baptist Church days after the Constitutional Court's ruling.