Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Area Council Four of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) took centre stage yesterday after news emerged that a resolution, which, in effect, came out in full support of Andrew Holness as the duly elected leader, had been passed in that bloc at the western end of the island.
The group claimed that the resolution was designed to "reduce the friction and division" that would normally result from an electoral contest and to promote unity in the party.
But members aligned to possible challenger Audley Shaw's camp complained yesterday that senior party members were manoeuvring to frustrate a face-off with Holness in November at the party's annual conference.
The charge was soundly dismissed by members of the region, who said nominations are made from the floor of conference each year, allowing persons to elect a leader and four deputy leaders of the party.
Attorney-at-law Harold Brady, member of the party's powerful Standing Committee, said last year was no exception, as Holness was elected unopposed by the delegates of the JLP at the annual conference.
Three pivotal members of the JLP represent seats in Area Council Four. They are General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, Edmund Bartlett, who is off the island, as well as Dr Christopher Tufton, the caretaker for South West St Elizabeth, who lost the seat in 2011.
Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, the member of parliament for Southern Trelawny, which is also located in Area Council Four, said while she remains undecided, she was troubled by the hostilities that had surfaced.
"I don't like the hostilities that are coming out," she asserted.
COME IN PEACE
Dalrymple-Philibert's comments came only hours after Shaw, who signalled that he was likely to challenge Holness for the leadership of the party, said at a meeting of Area Council Three that he had come in peace and with no malice as he sought to engage delegates and supporters.
But Dalrymple-Philibert said the tones from meetings of the area councils, two of which were addressed by Holness and Shaw, had left her worried. She declined to comment, however, on the resolution that hit out at the anticipated challenge to Holness.
"I have not decided as yet. I have been a strong supporter of the leader of the party, but as always, democracy is a right, and the delegates on the ground need a voice," she argued.
The pace of political activities intensified yesterday as JLP members huddled to fine-tune strategies in the aftermath of the package of explosive area council meetings on the weekend.
There were unmistakable signs that both campaign teams are gradually taking shape, with both teams locked in meetings all day yesterday.
As Shaw huddled in meetings, a group of parliamentarians, who are openly backing Holness, were meeting at the JLP's Belmont Road offices yesterday.
Two former presidents of the young professionals' affiliate of the party, Generation 2000 (G2K), Warren Newby and Delano Seiveright, as well as Ian Murray, a former senator, are expected to officially throw their weight behind Shaw.
Newby, a former senator, and Seiveright, a one-time aide of Holness in his capacity as opposition leader, were active at the Area Council Three meeting, along with former G2K General Secretary Colin Virgo.
Contrastingly, senior members of the JLP are, for the most part, backing Holness and they are not bashful to stand beside him in the limelight.
Veteran politicians Derrick Smith, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, Desmond McKenzie, Everald Warmington and Sharon Hay-Webster, as well as Shahine Robinson and Andrew Wheatley, who publicly expressed support for Holness, were at yesterday's meeting.
As Audley Shaw prepares to challenge Andrew Holness for the leadership, Jamaica Labour Party insiders reveal the leanings of opposition members of parliament.