Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Andrew Holness' unusually energetic presentation during Sunday's annual conference of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) appears to have pumped new life into members, following a weekend court scare.
By their pronouncements, the JLP leader has received high marks from key members of the party hierarchy, including those vying for the position of chairman.
Daryl Vaz, who refused to attend the conference as a "principled stance in the interest of the party", expressed satisfaction with Holness' presentation.
"I thought the leader's speech was very strong … 'enough is enough'," Vaz declared. "I now look forward to the words being converted into action and I believe that this will do a lot for the leader as he goes into his second year of leadership."
Controversial senior party member Everald Warmington had given the JLP a jolt on the eve of the annual conference with an injunction to prevent three deputy leaders from being nominated. The application was later withdrawn.
Pressing for action
Angered by Warmington's public reaction to an internal matter, Vaz asserted that his stand was intended to press for decisive action to be taken against the contentious JLP figure. He told The Gleaner that he refused to attend any Area Council (Two) meetings with Warmington as chairman.
"My position was in no way meant to disrupt or embarrass the party, but to send a strong signal to the leadership that enough is enough," he argued.
Vaz had said as long as Warmington was not disciplined for bringing the party into disrepute, he would not be attending any political meetings where Warmington is present, other than Parliament for which he is duty-bound by constituents.
Karl Samuda, one of the aspirants in the upcoming chairmanship election, said he had planned to walk away from any competition, but Holness' presentation had inspired him to forge ahead.
"The meeting of delegates and Andrew's presentation have changed the parameters and alter the position that I had held," he asserted. "I think that what we saw was a display of strong leadership or the capacity to lead from the front in a very decisive way."
Added Samuda: "I liked the language and passion and the determination to succeed … . It is going to be necessary to give support in a very fundamental way that will enhance the possibilities of once again becoming the Government."
Samuda said he agreed with Holness that the campaign and spokes in the wheel must be dealt with.
"Those who have failed and (are) conducting themselves to prevent a JLP victory should be properly assessed as to the way forward," he said. "This is no time for complacency, bickering and selfishness; this is the time for serious political work based on established principles with a healthy infusion of new ideas and strategies."
Edmund Bartlett, who over the weekend officially signalled he would enter the contest, told The Gleaner that Holness' address had strengthened his resolve "to come forward to give support to the leader in the reorganisation, renewal and refocusing of the JLP as the most potent vehicle for Jamaica's economic and social development".
Added Bartlett: "Certainly, the leader's platform of building a fashionable and relevant political party responsive to the needs of the people and reflective of their hopes and aspirations is fully embraced by me and represents the critical plank of my campaign."
Another contender, Derrick Smith, declared he harboured no doubts about Holness' capabilities.
"My position has not changed. It is as strong as it was months ago, it has not changed one iota," Smith declared. "What has changed is the avalanche of support that I have been receiving over the past week or so … that has been the significant and positive change."