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Holness stands in control

Published:Monday | March 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM

A senior Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member reportedly said yesterday that it would be suicidal for members of parliament (MP) on the opposition benches to remove Andrew Holness as their leader.

The comment was reportedly made during a meeting at the party's Belmont Road headquarters where MPs were deciding yesterday whether to keep Holness as opposition leader.

Some 13 JLP MPs voted for Holness to remain the leader while seven voted for him to step down. Of the 21 MPs, 20 were present for the meeting.

North West St Elizabeth MP J.C. Hutchinson was said to be unavoidably absent.

one agenda meeting

Derrick Smith, the leader of opposition business in the House of Representatives, released at a brief statement after the meeting confirming that Holness was affirmed as leader of the Opposition.

Repeated attempts to contact Smith by telephone proved unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, informed sources said yesterday that the manner in which Smith conducted the meeting has the potential to cause the trust deficit within the parliamentary group to widen.

The sources said there was no real attempt to discuss critical issues such as funding and the state of the organisation. Instead, the focus was placed on having the votes cast.

"The blind loyalists who supported Edward Seaga when he was losing are the same ones who are supporting Holness ... . They are still more loyal to the leader than the party and the country," the source said.

The meeting to discuss Holness' fate followed a call from Delroy Chuck, MP for North East St Andrew, who called on him to resign from the constitutional position after the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling of the Constitutional Court that his use of pre-signed, undated letters of resignation from senators Arthur Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton was unconstitutional.

Karl Samuda, a declared Holness supporter, told The Gleaner yesterday that he would not be discussing the meeting, saying that was an agreed position.

Samuda, however, said that "nothing in the vote surprised me".

Holness, in November 2013, staved off a challenge from Audley Shaw for the leadership of the JLP. At the time, eight of the 21 MPs declared support for Shaw. Those MPs were James Robertson, Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, Daryl Vaz, Gregory Mair, Delroy Chuck, Rudyard Spencer, Ed Bartlett and Mike Henry.

Bartlett and Henry are since believed to have left the Shaw camp.