EDITORIAL - Mr Holness must move on

Published: Monday | December 30, 2013 Comments 0

In the nearly two months since he turned back Audley Shaw's challenge to retain his job at the helm of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Andrew Holness has sought to address one of the main reasons claimed for the assault of his leadership.

He has sought to blunt accusations of being unconnected to the party's base, by being visible and noisy. He has criticised the Government's management of the economy, its response to a spurt of crime, and its management of foreign policy.

But Mr Holness still has much work to do to position the JLP as a credible alternative to the Government, armed with serious, workable policies.

Of course, Mr Holness still has to endure a fair bit of flak since his re-election.

There remains, for instance, questions over the morality of the tactic employed in removing from the Senate two of Mr Shaw's key supporters in the bruising leadership campaign: Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams. He submitted to the governor general pre-signed, but previously undated, letters of resignations, which, with supreme irony, were conceptualised and drafted by Mr Williams, when he served as an aide to the opposition leader.

Additionally, the jury remains out on whether, even after receiving a decent mandate with 57 per cent of the delegates' vote in the election, Mr Holness can heal the JLP, making it a potent political force in three years before a general election is constitutionally due.

This newspaper remains optimistic for Mr Holness, in part because we wish the JLP success, understanding its critical role in Jamaica's democracy. Neither has he done anything, thus far, that is fundamentally wrong.

First, Mr Holness received those letters of insurance because there is no specific clause in Jamaica's Constitution for the revocation of a Senate appointment even if, as happened with Dr Tufton and Mr Williams, they refuse to resign, having lost the support of either the opposition leader or the prime minister, who appointed them.

The legality of Mr Holness' action is now before the courts. But this newspaper continues to hold that he committed no moral breach, notwithstanding the arguments that the resignation letters were used in a circumstance other than for which they were intended.

We feel that the greater moral burden rested with the senators, especially Dr Tufton, who had openly questioned Mr Holness' character during the leadership campaign.

Quality of replacements

While we acknowledge the depth Dr Tufton and Mr Williams contributed to Senate debates, we also value the quality of their replacements, in Mr Ruel Reid, the respected educator, and Dr Nigel Clarke, the mathematician/businessman. Their interventions so far in Senate debates indicate balance of thought.

Mr Holness' bigger challenger is how he handles the other unresolved issue from the election, the refusal by Mr Shaw, formerly the JLP's spokesman on finance, and Ed Bartlett, who had the tourism portfolio, of positions in the Shadow Cabinet.

Mr Bartlett didn't like what was on offer, the foreign affairs job. Mr Shaw declined because Dr Tufton was sidelined. Such attempt at usurpation of Mr Holness' mandate is intolerable.

Mr Holness still holds the posts open. He must tell both men they have had enough time. The distractions must end. This newspaper wants to see the formulation of concrete policies, not hear airy-fairy declarations.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

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