Bunting disappointed, but says he's not ashamed

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 08, 2019

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IT wasn't quite the birthday gift that People's National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Manchester Central and Rise United presidential candidate Peter Bunting had in mind — not after three long months of intense campaigning, insults, accusations, and a great deal of uncertainty.

But when the fanfare of a demanding day died down, the former PNP General Secretary lost by 76 votes.

Of the 2,778 votes counted, 1,427 were in favour of incumbent Dr Peter Phillips, while 1,351 were in favour of Bunting. There were seven spoilt ballots in the 96 per cent voter turnout. A total of 2,894 delegates were eligible to vote.

“Obviously this is not the result that we had hoped for, but the fact that the winner won by 51 per cent shows that there was a legitimate need for a challenge. I want to start by congratulating Dr Phillips and his team on their victory, and all of us will respect the decision of the delegates,” Bunting said after the results were released yesterday afternoon outside the National Arena in St Andrew.

“I want to now turn to my own team who ran an amazing campaign. Never in history has an incumbent with all the leadership behind them been successfully challenged and we came within probably a few dozen votes of that. I think we have nothing to be ashamed of. It is clear that our message resonated with almost 50 per cent of the delegates of the party. We intend to continue to advocate for what we believe is important, not just for the party but for the people of Jamaica,” Bunting said and described the response from supporters as “inspirational”.

He said, while his team is no doubt disappointed, the group feels vindicated to have amassed close to half the delegates of the party supporting Rise United's position.

“In many ways, it says that the issues that we put forward were legitimate and need to be addressed by the party,” he said, adding that he will now reflect on the election result and the way forward.

But despite Bunting's acceptance of the delegates' decision, his supporters still clung to the view that Phillips, who ascended to the top post by way of acclamation in 2017, should step aside.

“Peter Bunting losing the election is not just bad for the PNP, but for Jamaica. The country will not have a strong Opposition with Dr Peter Phillips as the head [of the party] and it shows how tone-deaf the PNP is. [It shows] that even after the people of Jamaica keep on saying that this is not the man that they want to lead them they still decide to elect him back as leader of the party. I don't know what he's being awarded for. He has not achieved anything as leader of the party,” a young man who gave his name as David Watson said.

While admitting that Phillips was “a good” finance minister during the Portia Simpson Miller-led Administration, Watson said his achievements ended there.

“I just think he is the next [Edward] Seaga — always winning internal election but losing at the general [election]. He is holding on to power when he really cannot win an election,” the Bunting supporter told the Jamaica Observer.

He was not to be outdone by Sandrine Martin, who openly expressed her dissatisfaction with the result.

“I do think that Peter Bunting is the suitable candidate to lead the PNP because, over the years being in politics, being a delegate, this is the most silent I've ever heard the PNP. Peter is so inactive. So many things are going on in the country on the [Jamaica] Labour Party (JLP) side to which we have enough things to speak out on, and he is inactive. He's dormant; he's not doing anything. I have not heard his voice. So, therefore, if I vote in the next general election it will not be for him. It will be for [the] party; it will be partisan. I don't think that he is a good representative, and I don't think that he's able to take and to move the PNP forward and to get back the [country] from the Labour Party,” Martin said.

Debbie Stewart, in the meantime, told the Sunday Observer that she has little plan to vote in the next general election because of yesterday's decision by the delegates.

“I believe in changes. The electorate and the wider Jamaica is saying Peter Bunting stand the better chance of beating the corrupt JLP party. We want the end to the corruption; however, the fact that I was going with Peter Bunting, my vote right now is undecided,” Stewart shared.

For Victoria Lowe, the PNP will not secure a House majority until Phillips is replaced.

“Bunting shoulda win, because we woulda have a better chance. See Peter Phillips win, wi nah see it back now. A this the Labourite them, want because them know seh if Phillips win them a go win the next election. Yuh know how Andrew Holness deh a him yard a jump fi joy now and a drink big champagne? Him know whenever him call it him a go win. PNP cyaan win. Bunting, mi nah tell nuh lie, mi very upset right now. I will not be voting in the general election. Me a mek sure find country or mi book a ticket go foreign. So I won't be here to vote,” Lowe fumed.

At midday yesterday, Director of Elections Glasspole Brown said over 50 per cent of delegates had voted.

Earlier in the day MPs and councillors paced the grounds outside the National Arena in St Andrew attending to delegates in long lines waiting to either register or cast their votes.

Meanwhile, supporters of both the OnePNP and Rise United camps crammed numerous tents erected just outside the Arena, enjoying spoils at the expense of the two candidates.

Disc jockeys kept others, consumed by alcohol, busy with thumping music and the periodical endorsement of candidates.

Vendors restricted to the outskirts of the venue benefited, too, from the thick crowd that had converged for the election.

A heavy police presence limited cases of disputes with the only noticeable one involving Rise United Campaign Manager Dr Dayton Campbell and PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson. In the end, the two went their separate ways.


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