Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Mike Henry, the veteran politician who is being aggressively wooed by the camps of both leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness and challenger Audley Shaw, has accused both sides of constitutional manipulation in the lead-up to the contest.
For Henry, the member of parliament for the strong Central Clarendon constituency, it is a case of who feels it knows it.
He charged that some of the same shenanigans taking place now were played out in 1978 when he challenged then JLP leader Edward Seaga.
Henry charged that it was the range of gamesmanship that reduced his challenge 35 years ago to a no-contest.
He was critical of both Holness and Shaw for registering their constituency committees after the March 31 deadline. While Holness reportedly registered within the first extension that ended May 31, Shaw did not.
"I am very disappointed that both the challenger and the incumbent did not adhere to the provisions of the constitution of the party," said Henry.
He argued that under the provisions, the constituencies that both contenders represent should never be allowed to participate in any conference that is held afterwards.
"But because it has become a convention of the party, they have changed things at the behest and the whims and caprice of people, that it is almost an accepted norm."
The veteran politician, known for his fierce independent streak, said Central Clarendon has always abided by the stipulations laid down by the party constitution, after he recognised the effects of such a breach when he challenged Seaga in 1978.
"Every year from day one, we register pursuant to the constitution of the JLP, ever since my challenge to Mr Seaga and seeing all the manipulations of the system," said Henry. "So we have always registered on the 31st March of every year, as we did this year."
Henry noted that his platform agenda when he challenged Seaga was for the implementation of term limits for leaders.
He said Shaw has indicated that he would support term limits while he was still in discussions with Holness on the issue.
While Holness has acknowledged that Henry has been cleared in the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme affair, Shaw, a senior deputy leader, suggested the former minister was wronged by his colleagues within the party.
Henry seemed unmoved by both gestures, coming as they have during a leadership campaign.
"We in Central Clarendon have been through the various issues, we even boycotted everything that the party had," Henry said in reference to the decision made by the constituency executive after the transport ministry portfolio was taken from him in the midst of the JDIP controversy two years ago.
With the leadership race overtaking the JLP, Henry said the constituency adopted a wait-and-see approach.
"We had our executive meeting on Wednesday night and the executive arrived at a position," said Henry.
He stressed that he would not take an active part in the campaigning for either of the two leaders at the national level.
"That position is being taken to the 113 delegates who will be assembled tomorrow evening (yesterday) at the Denbigh High School. I will present to them what the executive discussed and my own position."
Henry said immediately after that he would release the decision of the delegates.