Bunting's town hall gave him a chance to rise

Thursday, August 29, 2019

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The participation of Peter Bunting in the George Davis-chaired town hall staged at the Phoenix Theatre on Thursday, August 22, 2019, as part of his Rise United campaign for president of the People's National Party (PNP), is to be commended. In fact, commendations are deserved all round.

George Davis, who sought to ensure that Peter Bunting was done no favours, was tough and determined throughout the two-hour-long town hall, and is to be commended for an idea whose time has come. Thursday's town hall was streamed live on social media and there was modest splattering of traditional media present. It was wildly well attended by community people and Rise United supporters, and there was vigorous audience engagement/participation throughout the session.

The town hall in which Bunting fielded a full range of questions and was calm, clear, and convincing throughout is the closest thing we had to a debate between the two candidates. Bunting's participation in the town hall was in stark contrast with the One PNP Peter Phillips campaign. When offered the opportunity to participate in a debate, the One PNP Peter Phillips campaign declined. When offered the opportunity to do a town hall themselves, they initially agreed and then cancelled, citing scheduling difficulties.

What is at stake is a political philosophy. The Rise United campaign, by making themselves to be interrogated and cross-examined, including by those not necessarily sympathetic to their political objective, is showing themselves as believers in public accountability and in participatory democracy. They are being prepared to open themselves to a wider constituency, because ultimately political parties are public institutions. Therefore, to their way of thinking, who becomes the leader of the PNP is a matter of public interest. On the other hand, by not allowing themselves to be scrutinised and cross-examined in the eyes of a watching, participating public, questions deserve to be raised about the One PNP and Peter Phillips's commitments as democrats, and raise questions about whether or not they are prepared to be clientelistic in their political strategies. How you seek to win is often indicative of how you intend to govern, if you get the opportunity.

Commendation for Peter Bunting goes beyond the fact of his willingness to participate in this town hall. There was crispness and robustness of intellect demonstrated throughout his presentation. Host George Davis had a bee in his bonnet — which is a sign of a good talk show host. His bee was allegations of corruption within the PNP, and he was quite invested in getting Bunting to alienate himself from his colleagues Philip Paulwell and Mikael Philips. He wanted to get Bunting to select his Cabinet then and there, and he tried to lure Bunting into setting some rule that anybody who has been implicated in a scandal cannot become a member of his Cabinet when he becomes PNP leader and prime minister or as part of his Administration, to which Bunting responded with wit and conviction. He pointed out that scandals are a subjective way of speaking about things and do not necessarily have objective measures as to what constitutes a scandal. Along this line he pointed out that he had never in his political career seen anything more unfair than what the media and the JLP did to former Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson with the death of premature babies. He pointed out that what has now proven to be within the realm of the normal statistic was used to scandalise unfairly Ferguson, who had to be transferred from his Cabinet portfolio. In addition, Bunting quipped an adage from retired Cabinet minister Dr Omar Davies, who said when you are running at Champs worry about winning Champs. After you have won, you can think about winning the Olympics.

Bunting's participation and performance in the town hall has done his campaign (both as Champs and the Olympics, if you get my meaning) a world of good.

Garnet Roper is a minister of religion. Send comments to the Observer or glroper@hotmail.com.


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