Fri | Dec 2, 2016

Mike Henry announces politics departure plan

Published:Monday | January 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Central Clarendon Member of Parliament Mike Henry has indicated he might leave the political arena before the next general election is called, insisting that even if he seeks re-election, he is not prepared to stay beyond 2019.

Henry, who will turn 80 in June, outlined his agenda for departure during an emergency meeting with his constituency executive last Friday night.

"The meeting was called to discuss the status of the country and the way forward and my own representation. I wanted to get their opinion and support position in respect of my continuing to serve the constituency," said Henry, who has been MP since 1980.

Henry said the matter was discussed at length, and the members arrived at a consensual position, where he was asked to continue serving until the next general election is called. That election is due December 2016.

Henry said his decision was triggered by a number of factors, including an editorial in one of the island's leading newspapers, in which the age of politicians and their tenure was the issue.

"There is a public out there that seems to think age is a major factor, so I wanted to get the opinion of the executive and what was their thinking on my continued service."

MAXIMUM FOUR MORE YEARS

Henry, who has been politically active for 35 years, said though he was asked to stay, he would only stay a maximum four more years.

"I have been discussing with the constituency the right time for my moving on. I am not unhealthy up to a point. The issues are there, the pressures are there … . I have things on the ground I need to put in place. In Parliament, I have the reparation debate to finish. If I get things done before then, I may go earlier," Henry said.

The former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) chairman, who was fired as transport and works minister by then Prime Minister Andrew Holness during the controversy that developed in relation to the Jamaica Development Infra-structure Programme, which he implemented, said his stay in politics would also be influenced by the way in which the leadership of the JLP chose to deal with critical unification matters.

"If I have no future, then the people should not be out there dying for me, so I have to structure that in it," said Henry, who has been ignored by Holness for a position in the Opposition's Shadow Cabinet.

He said that is no secret that there is need for unification of the party and that he was committed to making himself available to assist in that process.

Central Clarendon is a strong Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) seat, which political insiders say Henry is seeking to vacate in order to make room for Dr Christopher Tufton.

Tufton, a former deputy leader of the JLP, left South West St Elizabeth after he was unseated in the 2011 general election by Hugh Buchanan of the People's National Party (PNP). Tufton won the seat by 1,825 in 2007 but lost by 13 in 2011, and thereafter, concluded it was almost unwinnable by him.

ASKED TO STAY THE COURSE

In Central Clarendon, public relations officer for the constituency's executive Henry Morant said members of the committee asked Henry to stay the course at least until a successor has been identified.

Henry said while Tufton has a business in May Pen, the heart of Central Clarendon, there is no consideration at this point for the transfer of the seat to him.

"He is not in any executive in the constituency. Politically, the constituency will consult as we go along. I am setting the timetables; those things will manifest themselves," Henry said.

"I am always looking along the lines of succession despite what people may think. It is not just me. I have parish council divisions where people have served long enough. It is a matter of transferring the power on a planned basis, creating a balance to how you move forward," he said of the transition planning.

"What I said to the constituency when the constituency said to me, 'Are you healthy? Are you willing to go on? We don't want you to move from here at this stage and we think the party needs you in that position', is that I will stay maximum three to four years. … but politics is dynamic," the senior legislator said.