‘Dudus’ battle rattles JLP – Party elders lament

Pearnel Charles

LONG-SERVING members of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) have admitted that the extradition request for Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips affair and the bloody attempt to arrest the alleged drug kingpin are proving to be a political nightmare.

“This is the most stressful period in my 40-odd years of association with politics,” Karl Samuda, JLP general secretary and a seasoned political campaigner, told The Gleaner.

Samuda is one of the old guards of the JLP who have been involved in many political battles since the 1970s.

But none of the battles have ever included a former JLP leader snipping at the present leader.

Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s call last week for the resignation of the current JLP leader and prime minister, Bruce Golding, has obviously rocked the party even though the old warriors have refused to speak to the matter on the record.

Some of these seasoned political warriors in the JLP survived detention in the state of emergency in the politically tumultuous days of the 1970s.

They have come through untold political violence and major internal upheavals that have ripped the party apart over the past 20 years.

Now, the signs of numbness and battle weariness seem to be setting in.

“Whatever may be right or wrong – and nothing is absolute – nothing is totally right and nothing is totally wrong, the experience graphically highlights the existence of the two Jamaicas,” said Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange who cut her political teeth in west Kingston.

Another veteran Pearnel Charles who never recoils from speaking his mind but, like his colleagues, is having a tough time dealing with reports that many innocent persons may have died last week in Tivoli Gardens.

“If there is any truth to what I am hearing about people being killed innocently by members of the security forces, this is the darkest period in our history,” declared Charles.

Both Grange and Charles were detained in the 1976 state of emergency.

Samuda was a member of the so-called ‘Gang of Five’ – a breakaway faction of the JLP – along with Charles in the early 1990s.

He has been engaged in some fierce political combats in the past, his passion and drive always near the surface.

By his own admission, Samuda’s experience, when he was booted from the JLP in 1991, went to court to challenge the decision and lost, pales into comparison to the way he now feels.

“This whole episode emanating from the operation in Tivoli Gardens and the death of (businessman) Keith Clarke (East Kirkland Heights, St Andrew) have taken a great personal toll on my emotion,” Samuda declared.

“I hope that we will remain strong, that we will be able to come through this in a manner that will assist in healing those wounds,” Samuda added.

Grange agreed. “It is painful to see innocent lives being lost and this does not mean that I am supporting criminality,” she declared.

Charles spent nine months in detention and three months under house arrest in 1976. In the early 1990s, he too was numbered among the ‘Gang of Five’.

The outspoken politician highlighted the tumultuous period of the 1970s when he was locked away and assaulted repeatedly as a trade unionist and political activist, as a time of personal challenge.

But like Grange, Charles was disinclined to make definitive comparisons.

“If we start to dissect the challenges into personal issues, we have lost the war,” he declared. “We have never had anything like this before where elements have taken on the state.”

According to Charles, these are great challenges that can bring great opportunities.

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