Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
"WRAPPED UP in my decision to run for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is my firm belief that the people's voices must be heard in the party and in Jamaica."
Those were the words uttered by Audley Shaw as he launched his campaign to challenge Andrew Holness for the leadership of the JLP.
It was one of three 'V's that underscored his address to supporters. The others were victory for Jamaica and his vision for Jamaica.
It was only two years ago that the JLP was searching for a new leader, when Holness, then 39 years old emerged. At age 61, Shaw said he is more than ready to take on the mantle of leadership.
"Our voices are heard, we can achieve victory, not just for the JLP, but victory for all Jamaicans," he told supporters on the grounds of the Manchester High School.
It was within this context that Shaw said he was appealing to Jamaicans to make a fresh start in the "spirit of love and unity".
Shaw said his vision for Jamaica is to launch a revolution in education, centred on early childhood education from three years as well as the creation of more tertiary institutions.
He said the students loan system at low interest rates must be made accessible to more students and character education must be introduced in schools.
Shaw also promised a reformed public sector; a more effective Investment and Economic Ministry to promote equity in investments, and the expansion of the Junior Stock Exchange.
Under his watch, Shaw said focus will be placed on renewable energy. He also harbours visions of Jamaica being the logistics hub and transshipment capital of the Caribbean, as well as the limestone capital of the world with the decline of the alumina and bauxite sector.
Seemingly unperturbed by the onslaught unleashed by relentless rain, supporters of the JLP stood in pools of water to hear ringing endorsements for Shaw.
Edmund Bartlett; Marissa Philibert Dalrymple; Joan Gordon Webley; Rudyard Spencer; Daryl Vaz; Gregory Mair, among others, danced to a JLP signature song Me An Me Neighbour Vote For Labour.
It was Bartlett who opened the floodgate of endorsements. The veteran politician from St James described Shaw as "Man of the Hour" and "servant of the people" who cares to listen.
Tufton captured the moment in his opening comment. "When yu see Labourite in a two and three feet of water you know say them ah committed Labourite," he declared.
He had caustic words for JLP Leader Andrew Holness.
"Mr Shaw is a team player ... you cannot have a leader who label some Labourites as more Labourites than others," said Tufton. "I want a leader who is willing to work with everybody because everyone has a role to play."