Phillips supporters take digs at Bunting

Executive editor — publications

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

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They never called his name, but speaker after speaker at the People's National Party's (PNP) Manchester North Western constituency conference rally last Saturday night took potshots at Peter Bunting, the Manchester Central member of parliament whose leadership challenge has opened old wounds in the 80-year-old Opposition party.

Since June 9 when Bunting came public with his decision to challenge PNP President Peter Phillips, supporters of Bunting's Rise United team and Phillips's One PNP campaign have gone to the mattresses, and the fighting has not only been fierce, but nasty at times with allegations of attempts at vote-buying for the September 7 delegates' poll.

As the party faithful gathered at the Greenvale playing field, just outside Mandeville, Saturday night, Ewan Stephenson, the PNP candidate for St Elizabeth South Western opened the salvo.

“I support Dr Peter David Phillips,” Stephenson said. “Him ah di man. He has been tested, he has been proven. He became leader of the party two years ago. What he has done, no other leader has done. Why unno want to tek the thing from him?”

Vowing that he would get the delegates in his constituency to vote for Phillips, Stephenson said he had heard that the Rise United team was busy making phone calls to delegates in his constituency.

“But hear wah, ah we run tings dung deh so; is our constituency, is our delegates, and they are the ones who are going to go to Kingston on the seventh and ensure that Dr Peter Phillips continues to be our president and then the next prime minister of Jamaica,” Stephenson declared.

Bunny Witter, who has been consistently beaten in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) stronghold of Kingston Western, said that the PNP was now engaged in a battle for its soul.

“I hear a leader who says he intends, when he becomes the prime minister of Jamaica, to end the apartheid system in education... I hear a leader that says he intends to ensure that every Jamaican own a piece a di rock dat him born and grow up inna, dat him call Jamaica, and all pon a sudden, a team decide fi challenge him. So I wonder if is a team who don't believe that Jamaican people deserve to own something in dem own land,” he said.

Politics, he said, is about the heart and soul of the Jamaican people. It is about who loves and cares for the people.

“Is not when yuh have the position yuh don't do di thing, but when yuh don't inna the position yuh waan do di thing. It don't work so,” Witter said.

“Comrades, we should not be in a position fighting to protect the integrity of the PNP; we should be tearing down the Labourites to take over Jamaica House at this time,” he declared to loud cheers.

“I hear a little man say him is the best man fi lead the People's National Party, but when dem did the national poll Comrade Phillips was 12 [per cent] and him deh way a three [per cent]. So I waan know how three going beat 12?” he asked.

In an obvious reference to Bunting's disclosure that he was first introduced to representational politics by late PNP President Michael Manley, Witter said: “Comrades, yuh hear some people waan fi equalise demself and tell you that them is a part a Michael Manley... But I will tell you dis, there are some of us who tek the fight within the People's National Party, wi get wi beating but wi never leave di PNP, wi remain solid as a rock.”

Witter's reference to leaving the party was to Bunting's departure from elective politics after one term following his upset victory over late former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer in the Clarendon South Eastern seat in 1993.

Senator Floyd Morris also declared his support for Phillips, saying that no one can question the PNP president's integrity.

“Norman Manley was president of the PNP and him get him chance. Michael Manley was president of the PNP and him get him chance. PJ Patterson was president of the PNP and him get him chance. Portia Simpson Miller was president of the PNP and she get her chance. Peter David Phillips is the president of the PNP and we must allow him fi get him chance,” Morris said, eliciting shouts of approval from the crowd.

“Whilst every Comrade has a chance and a right in the PNP to challenge for position, there is a time and a place for everything,” he added.

“I look in the Bible, in Numbers, when Moses was leading the children of Israel. Moses was the chosen man of God and Aaron and Miriam decided dat dem going to test God's authority and dem decide say dat dem want to get rid a Moses and we saw what happen to Miriam. Moses had to beg and plead for Miriam and it cause deep division in the camp.

“Comrades, we must learn from the Bible because it is the source of inspiration,” Morris stated, adding: “I want to say to you, Comrades, that we must make sure we rally behind the leader that the people of the PNP have chosen to lead this organisation.”

Taking a dig at the Rise United name, Morris said: “Ah hear some people say dat dem rising, but you would understand that if you're rising you would be taking all the young leadership of the party behind you. But when mi look pon dis ting yah, mi see some things weh cause mi fi wonder, and I'm not disrespecting nobody, because the individuals that I am mentioning are individuals who have given distinguished service to Jamaica, but these individuals have indicated that they are going to step aside and retire.

“So you would want to make sure that if you're building a team, yuh a carry some energy wid yuh. Yuh a carry some energy like Lisa Hanna, yuh a carry some energy like Venesha Phillips, yuh a carry some energy like Mikael Phillips, yuh a carry some energy like Dwayne Vaz, some energy and vision like Floyd Morris, but instead yuh carrying a bunch a individuals who say dat dem a go step aside,” Morris argued.

Venesha Phillips, who is scheduled to contest the St Andrew Eastern constituency in the next election, was forceful in her support for Phillips.

“Comrades, we have two Peters. We have Peter the believer, and when yu listen to him, him say 'we can' and him still believing,” she said.

“But we have Peter the deliverer, who say that 'we will' because he's done it before and he's going to do it again. So Comrades, yuh see those who are following the believer, tell dem fi rise outta slumber and wake up because we winning right now. Is not that we can win; we will win.”

She added: “Ah hear some people talking about dem can give you milk and honey and dem can mek all manna fall from heaven... but tell dem say PNP people a nuh fool, so nuh guy cyaan buy wi out. Tell dem, Michael Manley told us that the People's National Party is not for sale.”

Lisa Hanna, the St Ann South Eastern MP who was one of the first Opposition parliamentarians to declare support for Phillips, said the decision to “unravel” the PNP was made on the basis of an opinion poll showing that Phillips was not the best choice for Jamaica.

“Well, I want to tell all of you that that is a lie, and that premise was destroyed two days ago, because what you are now seeing is that the country of Jamaica has said Comrade Peter David Phillips is in a statistical dead heat with Andrew Holness of the JLP. In other words, if an election were called now the PNP is in striking distance of removing the Jamaica Labour Party,” Hanna said, before inviting the Comrades to pay attention to social media on Monday at 10:00 am when the One PNP team would be releasing the results of a poll it commissioned.

Peter Phillips's son Mikael, who holds the Manchester North Western seat, said he respects the PNP president “not only because he's my father but he's a man who has given his life and sacrifice for this country and this party”.

“Many other man can only say dem love PNP, but ah nuh everybody give dem life to PNP,” the younger Phillips said.

“When mi hear some people a talk how much dem give, mi always say is you the workers and warriors who walk off the one shoes weh unnu have, you the workers and warriors who tek unnu money when unno go canvass and don't even have lunch money fi unnu pickney di following morning, a unnu sacrifice, not di man who write the cheque, because if it was not for you, nuff a dem couldn't run up dem mouth,” he said.

“And those who say dem a nuh socialist, PNP is a democratic socialist party and we believe in socialism because we believe in the people,” he added, then offered some advice to “the Member of Parliament for Central Manchester” whom he described as his brethren, but who, if he wanted to learn about politics, needed to sit at the feet of Peter Phillips.

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