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EDITORIAL - Belmont Road bust-ups won't help

Published:Wednesday | September 28, 2011 | 12:00 AM

WE PREVIOUSLY warned that while we expect rigorous debate between who wish to succeed Mr Bruce Golding as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and prime minister of Jamaica, we expect the contest to be conducted with decency and decorum and without compromise to the country's interest.

Our specific concern was that Mr Golding's announcement of his decision to step down at a very difficult period, when the Government is still in the process of salvaging its standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund and the prospect of a double-dip global recession threatening to squeeze the life out of Jamaica's sputtering recovery. So, even in the midst of a leadership campaign, our Government can ill-afford to become distracted and take its eyes off the various policy balls it is forced to juggle.

That is why we are concerned about the reported debacle at Belmont Road, the JLP's headquarters, on Monday night when the weekly meeting of the party's officers apparently broke up in disarray.

The seeming problem is that some of Mr Golding's closest aides took umbrage at the fact that Mr Andrew Holness, the education minister and leadership race front-runner, attended a meeting at the home of estranged party fixer, Mr Harold Brady, where an attempt was made to have Mr Holness throw his support behind the dark horse, Mr Audley Shaw. Mr Holness politely declined - at least for now.

Ttesting the wind

If Mr Holness' appearance at Mr Brady's home was seen as insensitive and a betrayal of Mr Golding, we assume worse will be considered of Mr Shaw, in favour of whom the solicitation was being made, although the finance minister has distanced himself from the effort. And with others testing the wind and biding their time before throwing their hats in the ring, Monday night's development portends a nasty fight.

Significantly, these danger signals emerged on the eve of a presentation at a conference in New York by the commerce and investment minister, Dr Christopher Tufton - himself a potential contender - in which he argued that despite the developments within the Government, Jamaica remains open for business. Things were going on, and would continue normally. He also assured investors that the country's economic policies would not change with a new leader at the helm.

Hardly bankable

On the evidence of Monday night's development, Dr Tufton's assurances - especially that the Government would not be distracted, at least over the next few months - are hardly bankable. In fact, the fear of potential instability in the Government is shared not only by this newspaper, even if not for the same reasons.

For example, Yvette Clarke, the United States congresswoman of Jamaican parentage, felt it necessary to encourage the leadership of the two parties "to use this moment to strengthen their core democratic values as they move towards a fair, just and peaceful transition in government".

Dawn Butler, a former United Kingdom parliamentarian for the British Labour Party commented: "Whatever happens, I hope it happens in a peaceful way."

Implicit in those remarks is an assumption that Jamaican politics is polarising and given to instability and even violence, even when the competition is internal. It may be possible to question the validity of such assumptions, but perception, in this context, is also reality.

That is why we previously told Prime Minister Golding of his need to manage the transition with skill and dexterity. We repeat that advice.

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.