Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader Andrew Holness is charging that he has been severely undermined by numerous plots orchestrated by a group of politicians who abandoned the organisation in the past and left it for dead.
Holness claimed his detractors have been bent on wrecking the reform agenda that he has been pursuing.
"They have betrayed the JLP and what we want to do," declared Holness in a no-holds-barred interview with The Sunday Gleaner.
"What hurts is to see some of those who were leaving the party when I was entering seeking to challenge me now," he said in reference to the persons who left the party with Bruce Golding to form the National Democratic Movement (NDM) in the 1990s.
"This argument about nothing is going on is absolute rubbish," he said. "They don't participate … . In fact, it is amazing, and you can check your records to see the press releases that went out about the launch of the islandwide reconnection tour that we had planned."
Holness charged that he met constant resistance from leaders in area councils when he ventured on the reconnection programme.
"I started an islandwide tour - parish by parish, constituency by constituency. I met upon resistance, complaints that I am going into area councils, parishes and constituencies - can you imagine? - without the presence of the leadership for that area," he said.
"The truth is, I could not put off my agenda for campaigning to facilitate the availability of the ground leadership … . They were either off the island or otherwise indisposed, and I kept meeting up on resistance. It was clear that what they wanted to do was to prevent me from moving around and solidifying myself with the delegates."
Added Holness: "I joined the JLP when these people were leaving … . Those who had abandoned the party coming to challenge me now, but so it go … . I remained with the party through its weakest time because I understood what the party was about."
He recalled that he was introduced to then JLP leader Edward Seaga by Edmund Bartlett in 1992, while he was a student at the University of the West Indies.
"Mr Seaga gave Christopher Tufton, who was ahead of me at the university, a portfolio, and gave me to shadow that portfolio, and Chris Tufton left the party and gave back the portfolio to Mr Seaga," he said.
Tufton was one of a number of JLP members who joined forces with Golding when the NDM was formed in 1995. Among the others who accompanied Golding were Brascoe Lee, Joan Gordon-Webley, Douglas Vaz and his son, Daryl.
Daryl Vaz, who is the member of parliament for West Portland, Tufton, and Gordon-Webley are currently active members of the JLP.
Holness said after Tufton walked away, Seaga handed him the portfolio to deal with establishing what was then called social investment and poverty alleviation.
"I took up a job not in the private sector, although my educational background was in management."
Holness said he worked at a voluntary organisation for uplifting children, working with poor children, abused and battered people, people suffering from HIV/AIDS, among others, in the community of Fletcher's Land.
"That's how I developed the close relationship with Mr Seaga," he said.
He claimed that even then, he understood the vision of the JLP.
"I also understood what the dispute was about in the party, why the splits occurred," he added. "I understood it and I also appreciated that there was value to some of the arguments about how to transform and reform the party."
Holness said he remained convinced that even in troubled times, he should work from within the JLP in a cooperative way.
"I am an institution man who sought change from within. I have never been one to undermine or bring the party into disrepute," said Holness.
"I have never done anything to undermine any leader," he added. "Whoever was leader of the party, I gave 100 per cent support … principle … which is why when I was asked as House leader to remove Mr Golding as prime minister by directing the members of parliament to go to the governor general, I refused to do it because it would have been the greatest ignominy, because I am a party man and I believe in principle."