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Opposition Members of Parliament to decide JLP leader Andrew Holness' fate

Published:Monday | March 30, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding

As he was at a rather rare politically flavoured gospel gala in St Catherine last night, besieged Opposition Leader Andrew Holness takes centre stage of a different nature at this morning's delayed meeting of opposition parliamentarians at the party's Belmont Road headquarters in St Andrew.

Even as he declared that he was ready to preside over the meeting, Derrick Smith, leader of opposition business, who was absent from the religious blast, served notice that he remains solidly behind Holness, as news emerged of the likelihood of a fresh challenge.

Burdened by recent events that have been unnerving the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Area Council Two supporters worshipped at a gospel concert, ahead of the potentially contentious meeting of its 21 parliamentarians who sit in the House of Representatives.

Although the meeting fuelled by Holness' double defeat in the courts, which was postponed from last Friday, is expected to simmer, the party remains seemingly more splintered over his fate.

Holness was the main speaker at the religious festival, staged under the leadership of Area Council Chairman Everald Warmington.

Smith was quizzed about the objective of such a meeting. "I have invited all 21 members of parliament to a caucus to discuss recent happenings and I expect them to be in attendance."

The Gleaner queried whether yesterday's gospel concert, staged by Area Council Two, comprising constituencies in St Catherine, St Thomas and Portland, was intended to have any bearing on today's meeting.

"You need to address that issue with the organisers of the concert, but my belief is that it is a completely independent and different matter," said Smith.

He served notice that he harbours no intention of shifting his support from Holness in the event of a challenge against the beleaguered party leader and scoffed at reports in sections of the media that veteran politician Dr Ken Baugh may be due for a leadership challenge.

"I would support only one candidate, and that is only Mr Andrew Holness," said Smith in response to Gleaner queries.

Asked whether Baugh has made any official statement to the party, Smith said: "Not to me or others as far as I know ... . My belief at this time is that Dr Baugh would not have an interest in responding to any call from anyone for the top job."

Smith was asked why he harboured such a belief. "You figure it out - Dr Baugh is a very strong supporter of Mr Andrew Holness."

Smith was also asked whether any absentees were anticipated at today's meeting, given the no-show of senior opposition politician Delroy Chuck to the last such meeting. "I haven't heard of any, I am not expecting any and I haven't got any apologies."

He said there was, however, a question mark on Member of Parliament North West St Elizabeth, J.C. Hutchinson, who recently underwent a medical procedure and recuperating.

At least one prominent member who felt Holness' ire in the aftermath of the 2013 leadership race with Audley Shaw will be going into the meeting with a pro-Holness stance.

"I am not sure what is to be gained from this meeting as it is not likely that Holness can be removed, if that is the agenda," said the politician. "The (anti-Holness) team isn't convincing enough to command additional support so it (booting Holness) is not going to happen, as you can't convince the majority of the people."