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JLP MP Edmund Bartlett warns that unseating Holness now would spell doom for Opposition party

Published:Monday | August 10, 2015 | 8:00 AMGary Spaulding
Edmund Bartlett

With only a day to go before the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) continues with its parliamentary caucus, a veteran politician who supported Audley Shaw's 2013 campaign is warning that any move to oust Andrew Holness as opposition leader at this time could be "disastrous".

Apart from the issue of poor timing, Edmund Bartlett warned yesterday that the JLP could be hurled into a political conundrum if the party and opposition leaders are different persons sitting simultaneously in Parliament.

Bartlett was speaking with The Gleaner from Miami, Florida, and is not expected to return to the island in time for tomorrow's showdown.

"Great confusion could be created with a leader of opposition and party leader both sharing space in the House of Representatives," he warned.

"Our political culture is yet to understand the dichotomy of a party leader who is a member of parliament, and at the same time, (not the) formal Opposition (leader) in our brand of adversarial democracy."

Political historian Troy Caine has also indicated that a move to oust Holness as opposition leader but have him remain as JLP leader is unprecedented.

Yesterday, Bartlett argued that under Jamaica's two-party system, successive governors general have always been advised in determining who to invite as prime minister as well as leader of the Opposition by the leaders of those parties in Parliament.

"The realities of our system are that candidates are fielded by parties, and the electorate votes for their party of choice, whose standard-bearers are individuals," he said.

Bartlett contended that historically, polls have intimated that the value of the candidate is within 10 to 20 per cent of the total votes cast and the value of the party makes up the rest.

As such, he said, the governor general may have difficulty in deciding whether there is a new faction within the Parliament if a party leader no longer enjoys the majority support in the House.

"The question could arise, is that leader from the party, or is he from some other entity such as an independent body or a new party that has emerged?" Bartlett said.

 

CONFUSION

 

"That would create such confusion in the body politic that you would virtually guarantee that a party that is locked in this kind of vortex would never have a chance of winning an election."

Illustrating that the timing of the attempt to remove Holness is poor, Bartlett said: "Politics is a series of moments that are influenced greatly by timing, and if we are off with the timing, our outcomes will be absolutely disastrous."

Bartlett suggested that the JLP is at a critical point in coalescing its key forces to realise its political goals.

"This is based on a public appreciation of a united team with shared values and the ability to take Jamaica from poverty to prosperity," he said.

 

PERCEPTION OF INSTABILITY

 

Accordingly, he said the JLP could not afford even the perception of instability as it moves forward to achieve its national electoral objectives.

"The call from both local and international partners is one that pleads for unity on the basis of which financial and other resources will be made available to us," he said.

Added Bartlett: "My position is, therefore, one which calls for unity and for us all to coalesce around our current leadership and to use our collective strength to overcome individual weaknesses."

He said: "The truth is that no one is infallible nor is true leadership possible without a strong following. If you don't have strong team members willing to give full resources and energy, leadership will never succeed, no matter how talented."

Said Bartlett: "To borrow the governor general's phrase, I am convinced that what is right with the Jamaica Labour Party is more than what is wrong with its leaders, and we should use what is right with us to make good what is wrong."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com