EDITORIAL - JLP leadership under scrutiny
Last Sunday, the Central Executive of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) elected the remainder of the party's top leadership - including Chairman Robert Montague and General Secretary Horace Chang - without the constitutional glitches that marred the week-earlier vote, by the annual conference, for the four deputy leaders.
This is a positive development if the JLP is to assume, with credibility, its role as Opposition and voters' alternative to the administration of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
But it is now up to the JLP to show Jamaicans that it is in a position to seriously get on with the job, without the prospect of legal challenges to the three newly elected deputies - Audley Shaw, Christopher Tufton and Derrick Smith - as had been threatened by parliamentarian Everald Warmington.
Mr Warmington's contention was that the three, who were unchallenged, were improperly nominated because they had not followed the regulations. The JLP's leadership agreed.
The question now is whether a resolution passed at the conference for the nominations to proceed remedied the constitutional mischief, and if the matter could come back to haunt the JLP. We would advise Andrew Holness, the party leader, to make absolutely certain, and if required, take whatever measure necessary, for a constitutional vote.
THE CLOCK IS TICKING
The JLP must do this knowing that it has little time within which to regain the trust it lost among Jamaicans, culminating with the party being thrown out of government after a single term. This must start with a demonstration that the JLP is a unified and coherent party, rather than a patchwork of disparate interests, defined largely by ambition and personality.
Mr Holness, therefore, can expect to be closely observed by people seeking to determine whether, after a bit more than a year at the helm, he now asserts authority over the party, and whether his key lieutenants display the intellectual rigour, maturity and the ability to formulate policies suitable for the times.
We are encouraged by some of the early comments of the new leaders, particularly Mr Chang's call for JLP supporters to end their "victim" syndrome and to seriously analyse the causes for the party's prolonged time in Opposition over the last 25 years. If this leads to serious reflection, it might hopefully translate into a new, policy-based approach to the way the JLP conducts its politics. In this regard, this newspaper looks forward to the review and analysis of the party, commissioned by Mr Holness, from an independent group in the aftermath of the JLP's electoral defeat almost a year ago.
The selection of Mr Montague as chairman in the context of these developments is most intriguing, and his performance will be closely scrutinised.
The JLP, for the most part, has traditionally given the chairman's job to one of the party's elder statesmen, someone perceived as being capable of providing sound, deliberated advice to the leader.
Mr Montague is largely seen as an in-a-hurry, on-the-ground operative with an uncompromising approach to politics. He talks loudly and walks heavily. And he is ambitious. Whether his style and ambition are congruent with Mr Holness' leadership is to be determined.
Whatever else they do, the JLP's leaders must always hold to the fore the fundamental reasons for the party's existence: for the protection of Jamaica's democracy and the development of the country.
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