Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
Seeking to avoid the infighting that has marred past internal contests in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Dr Christopher Tufton, himself an aspirant for deputy leader, has called for an overhaul of the party's electioneering platform.
Tufton, who is challenging the incumbent Dr Horace Chang and attorney-at-law Don Foote for leadership of the JLP's Area Council Four, suggested yesterday that the party establish terms of reference for internal elections; restrict campaigning to individuals and activities; and establish clear guidelines for slogans and "rhetoric that could encourage tensions and conflict".
Senator Aundré Franklin, the JLP deputy general secretary who is overseeing the contest, told The Gleaner he had not seen the recommendations, but said the party welcomed constructive suggestions from all candidates.
"... If they are things that are to the benefit of the party, we will also implement them," said Franklin, adding that all candidates were aware of the avenues for making recommendations.
The race for deputy leader in charge of Area Council Four, which covers western parishes, is one of two high-profile contests in the JLP. The other is for the post of general secretary, where Franklin and Daryl Vaz, the current deputy treasurer, are challenging the incumbent, Karl Samuda.
Samuda, who is also the industry, investment and commerce minister, has given indications that he might not seek re-election and would, instead, throw his support behind Franklin, a source said.
When contacted, Samuda would not confirm the report, saying only that Franklin "has been a good, strong deputy general secretary who I would have no problem supporting for the post of general secretary".
But the undercurrents of a divide - between the old guard and the younger wing of the party - have been cause for concern for Tufton, who in an address to party supporters in his South West St Elizabeth constituency conference yesterday recalled the JLP's propensity for "fractious" internal polls.
"Labourites, it cannot be in the interest of the party to be held hostage to bad habits ... and conflicts that linger from internal elections represent bad habits that should be managed out of the process, not preserved or entrenched by avoiding elections," Tufton, the agriculture minister, told delegates.
In 1992, Labour Minister Pearnel Charles was assaulted by party supporters outside the National Arena, where the JLP's annual conference was being held. Charles, a deputy leader at the time, was seeking to hold on to the post of deputy leader after falling out with then JLP leader, Edward Seaga, in the Gang of Five affair. The JLP was again thrown in turmoil in 2004 when Seaga alleged that tainted money was used to fund an internal campaign.
Tufton acknowledged that a monitoring committee was put in place for the deputy leader contest in Area Council Four, but said the appropriate response should be to manage the process so as to minimise conflict, while not depriving delegates of the right to express themselves.
The Area Council Four contest is scheduled to take place on Sunday.