Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
The Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Belmont Road headquarters was strangely silent last night with the abrupt cancellation of the Standing Committee meeting in the aftermath of last week's chaotic session, with political activities intensifying in the public domain.
The absence of what has become a weekly staple of the party that, at times, featured high drama, has prompted heightened speculation that the JLP leadership was moving to stave off another disruptive showdown.
It has also prompted frenzied talks in the JLP that deputy leader for Area Council Three, Audley Shaw. on his return to the island tomorrow, will formally announce his intention to challenge Andrew Holness for leadership in November.
'Uncomfortably high' tension
A Belmont Road source said a decision was made to call off the meeting because tension was "uncomfortably high" after last week's blowout involving prominent members, including Holness, deputy leader for Area Council One, Desmond McKenzie, and former JLP General Secretary Aundré Franklin.
JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang conceded that the decision to cancel the meeting was sudden, but played down its significance.
"We decided not to convene a meeting because people are out, Parliament is on a break, it is summer, and members are focused on other things," Chang told The Gleaner.
"It appears to be ad hoc, but we should have taken a break," he added.
Chang said most officers of the party, including Shaw, "are out", with Holness attending a political meeting in the western end of the island on the weekend.
Pressed by The Gleaner, Chang confirmed late yesterday that he was scheduled to meet Shaw when he returns to the island tomorrow.
But he stressed that the impending meeting was in no way related to the cancellation of the meeting.
"I have not had any formal signal from Audley that he is going to make any challenge, although politics, activity on the ground, is high," reiterated Chang.
Youth arm in Shaw's corner
While other senior members appear to be backing Holness, the bulk of the youth arm is lining up in Shaw's corner as they accuse their youthful leader of sidelining them and being paranoid.
It is understood that financial backers have also lined up behind Shaw, forcing the Holness team to scuttle for funding, ahead of the November annual conference.
"People are active on the road, they have taken to Facebook," said one senior officer. "The anticipation is quite high."
Another senior member said battle lines were drawn and there was unlikely to be any turning back.
"People are unhappy on both sides and some money men have come into the mix," he disclosed.
Gleaner sources said with supporters of both Holness and Shaw accepting that a challenge is the best course to take to end speculation once and for, all plans are being put in place to ensure a free and fair election.