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Smith says further restructuring needed within JLP leadership

Published:Tuesday | April 23, 2024 | 12:13 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter
Derrick Smith (right) speaks to the media while JLP Leader Andrew Holness (centre) and Genersl Secreatry Dr Horace Chang look on in this 2013 photo.

JAMAICA LABOUR Party (JLP) stalwart and former Cabinet Minister Derrick Smith says the changes coming out of Sunday’s Central Executive meeting are not enough, asserting that restructuring is also needed among the party’s deputy leaders. Smith...

JAMAICA LABOUR Party (JLP) stalwart and former Cabinet Minister Derrick Smith says the changes coming out of Sunday’s Central Executive meeting are not enough, asserting that restructuring is also needed among the party’s deputy leaders.

Smith called the changes an encouraging first step, but said the governing party must go further up the ladder in its shakeup.

“Have a look at the level of the deputy leaders. Have a look at the turnout of the deputy leaders at the local government elections. Look at their areas of responsibilities, how well they performed or otherwise,” Smith told The Gleaner on Monday.

He said the party must also evaluate its candidates and members of parliament (MPs) and, if necessary, replace those who have not performed or shown any inclination of performing.

Smith said JLP leader, Prime Minister Andrew Holness must, if needs be, hold by-elections within the next four months in where party members are found wanting.

This, the former MP for St Andrew North Western said, would give the new candidates or new MPs a year to show their cards before the next parliamentary elections which is constitutionally due in September 2025.

“That is what I think needs to be done; not just what happened yesterday (Sunday). They need to do a lot more,” Smith said.

At the meeting of the Central Executive, the second-highest decision-making body outside of the JLP’s annual conference, General Secretary Dr Horace Chang announced that Homer Davis and Audley Gordon had resigned from their posts as deputy general secretaries.

The Central Executive voted in favour of senators Charles Sinclair and Delroy Williams being elected as the new deputy general secretaries.

Senator Aubyn Hill resigned as party treasurer, a position that was filled with the appointment of Daryl Vaz.

Hill will be in charge of central administration and quality control in offering support to the party’s secretariat, Chang said.

Robert Morgan has also resigned as chairman of the party’s Public Relations Committee.

A Public Relations Council is to be established to lead the party’s communication efforts, the membership of which is to be announced at a later date.

The changes follow the February 26 local government elections in which the JLP lost several key divisions.

Davis, the MP for St James Southern, lost two of the three divisions held by the party in that constituency, giving the opposition People’s National Party a three to one majority.

In Clarendon North Central where Morgan is the sitting MP, the party lost the Mocho division, a long-time stronghold. This followed a public fight between Morgan and political turncoat Romaine Morris who retained the division but for the PNP.

Added to that, the party failed to retain the Kintyre division in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) where Williams had been in charge, surrendering the mayorship to the PNP.

The JLP emerged with control of seven municipal corporations to the PNP’s five. The PNP also won the Portmore Municipal Council while there was a tie within KSAMC where it had the popular vote.

The final results released by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica showed the JLP winning 113 of the 228 divisions and PNP 115.

The PNP emerged ahead in popular votes securing 311,716 to the JLP’s 290,283.

If the results were to hold for the general elections, the JLP would have lost 17 seats, moving down from the 49 it now holds to 32. The PNP would have won 31 of the 63 seats.

Still, political commentator Shalman Scott, a former mayor of Montego Bay, urged caution in connecting the local government election results to Sunday’s changes.

He said the people who have been replaced and those now selected are asked to do national duties in contrast to local and parochial activities.

“We have to be careful that we don’t spend a lot of time interpreting what the Jamaica Labour Party would be seeing as necessary,” Scott told The Gleaner on Monday.

He said local government elections aside, an internal shift was timely.

Scott said to the reasonable JLP member who is paying attention, the last general election should be the focus where only 37 per cent of the electorate participated.

The JLP secured a landslide victory with 21 per cent of that figure. He said this means that 79 per cent of the electorate did not choose the Government.

Additionally, he said the story for the Opposition is worse with the PNP getting the support of 16 per cent of the electorate which shows that 84 per cent did not favour the party.

“So, both the PNP and quite rightly the JLP will have to do some shuffling in terms of the skills and capabilities that they have within the party and so some changes have to be made on both sides,” said Scott.

He said more changes are on the horizon as both parties jostle for the greater share of the pie.