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Committed to 'Labour'

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 1:00 AM

Vaz dismisses claims that he is set to cross the floor

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

Opposition Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz set tongues wagging last Saturday when he turned up at Phillip Paulwell's birthday bash clad in orange suit to party with senior members of the governing People's National Party (PNP).

With Vaz clearly not seeing eye-to-eye with some in the leadership of his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), talk of a possible crossing of the floor by the two-term West Portland member of parliament has been whispered in political and business circles for some time.

But in a record-setting interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Vaz said his choice of garb was deliberate, and so was that of his wife, Annmarie, who wore a green dress.

According to Vaz, there was nothing behind his move except a, "clear demonstration of how politically mature Jamaica had become".

"I was exposed to politics in the worst time, which was 1976 when my father (Douglas) joined the JLP on the heels of the state of emergency. I was 13 years old. Between 1976 and 1980, I witnessed the political tribalism and violence of the period which tore families and friendships apart.

"Some of my father's best friends did not speak to him because JLP people only talked to JLP and PNP people only talked to PNP people. I vowed that if I could do anything about it, I would," said the outspoken former minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, under former prime minister Bruce Golding.

Vaz, a former officer of the JLP, said he wanted to make a public demonstration that the politics of tribalism and victimisation which flourished under JLP leader Edward Seaga and the under late PNP president Michael Manley would not sit with him.

He said there was absolutely no fear that anyone would interfere with him or his wife for their choice of colours or for attending the party.

"I saw cruelty meted out to people including some being killed innocently simply because of the colour they wore. I long decided that I wanted no part of that and, during my 29 years in representational politics, I have made it clear that I want no part in that.

"Some of my best friends are people in the PNP. I am godfather to Dr Wykeham McNeill's (minister of tourism and entertainment) son. A PNP Cabinet minister - can you imagine that? I am also the godfather of the son of my lifelong friend Metry Seaga," said Vaz.

"The late Roger Clarke was my friend and mentor, and I have not allowed partisan politics to stand between us," declared Vaz, who has been ruffling feathers in his JLP with outspoken remarks about the direction of the party, before and since Audley Shaw's loss to current leader Andrew Holness in the leadership challenge of December 2013.

Vaz supported Shaw's bid and raised millions to support the challenge but in a losing effort. Conceding that it was a bruising contest with some lingering bitterness, Vaz said his attendance at Paulwell's party was just a show of support for a political colleague and friend and "the decent thing to do".

political mischief

"No one need expect me to cross the floor anytime soon. That is just political mischief," he said with a matter-of-fact nonchalance.

"In the past, I have offered my services publicly to individuals in the PNP, and even to the prime minister, and I stand ready to serve if my prime minister asks me. I am about Jamaica. I support some policies of this Government and don't believe that we should tear down something because a particular government did it," said Vaz, as he quipped the calls for him to switch have become louder in recent times.

"My friendships with PNP people transcends politics and I feel honoured that even Comrades recognise my work and would want me to switch, but I am committed to Labour."