The leadership of the ruling People's National Party (PNP), including retired Prime Minister P.J. Patterson huddled on the weekend to strategise its way out of a potentially damaging position, brought on by the disclosure that the party received a donation of $31 million from a Dutch oil trading firm that does business with government.
According to reliable PNP sources, during a meeting of party officials on Friday night there were calls for relieving general secretary and information minister Colin Campbell of his positions.
He has been at the centre of the controversy that broke on Wednesday.
Opposition Leader Bruce Golding, at a hurriedly called press conference outside Gordon House, displayed documents which he claimed showed Campbell as signatory on an account in a local bank for the firm CCOC Association. Golding alleged that this account was funded by by Trafigura Beheer, a Dutch oil trading firm which acted on behalf of the the Jamaican government in trading oil procured from Nigeria under an arrangement first made by the Michael Manley administration in the 1970s.
The allegation is that money from the CCOC account was used to finance the PNP's recent annual conference, which has drawn sharp reprimand from private sector groups. But the PNP responded that the money from the Dutch benefactor was a donation, which the firm denied on Friday, stating that the relationship with the Jamaica was strictly commercial.
With the Government, clearly in an embarrassing position, sources say Patterson told the party on the weekend that he was not satisfied how the issue has been handled to date.
Government and party spokespersons were locked a meeting at Jamaica House all day into the night. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller cancelled an engagement last night, with Junior Finance Minister Fitz Jackson deputising for her. Contacted by telephone, PNP chairman Robert Pickersgill told The Sunday Gleaner he was in a meeting and could not speak at the time. He hinted that the Trafigura issue was discussed.
While the party has been tight-lipped on the likely fallout, comments by several officials betray concern and displeasure at the developments. Several insist on the shedding of political blood to allay public discomfort and enhance the part's chance of winning the impending general election.