The oldest political movement in the English speaking Caribbean; Jamaica’s Peoples National Party is facing another test of its internal fortitude in the midst of another presidential challenge. The contestants will be incumbent party president Dr. Peter Phillips and former general secretary Peter Bunting. In so many ways, both Phillips and Bunting are the right men for the job at this time but alas, it can’t be so, there can only be one party president. Both men have strong backgrounds, Phillips in government and Bunting in finance.
Phillips is a former Minister of Finance who saved the Jamaican economy, from an economic fate far worse than that which besotted Greece and Albania during the last global recession. He was deliberate, precise, ran a tight ship to wrest the Jamaican from that precipice.
Under the full glare of all Jamaicans, Bunting has become a thorn in the side of the again governing Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). With his opposition colleagues, he has managed to investigate and uncover many instances of seeming governmental corruption and cronyism which has bled the Jamaican coffers of millions of taxpayer dollars.
Like Phillips, Bunting is a former PNP general secretary of the PNP. Working in an environment of national fear and disgust, he orchestrated the 2011 ouster of the Bruce Golding/Andrew Holness (JLP) administration after it had become a pariah in the eyes of the US government. This was as a consequence of that government’s initial refusal to extradite now convicted JLP strongman Christopher Coke to face gun running and drug smuggling charges in the Southern District of New York.
Interestingly, both men; under different PNP governments; were ministers of national security. Both took steps to derail the international criminal gangs operating in and outside of Jamaica to wreak death and destruction on the nation. Phillips went after the narco-traffickers whilst Bunting went after the lotto scammers. Both were able to put significant dents into those operations but were unable to destroy Jamaica’s various international criminal syndicates and merchants of death.
Long before the PNP’s April 4, 2019 defeat in the East Portland by-election; necessitated by the murder of sitting M.P. Dr. Lynvale Bloomfield; Dr. Phillips capacity to lead the PNP to victory became an open topic of discussion among PNP rank and file. There was muted disapproval of his leadership style following the PNP’s loss in the South East St Mary by election on October 30, 2017, the dissonant cadence increased deafeningly thus the writing; of a challenge to his leadership; was on the wall.
The showdown between both have been festering since February 2017 when former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller indicated she would be demitting the party’s presidency ergo the office of Opposition Leader on April 2, 2017. Political pundits opined that one of the two; Bunting or Phillips; would most likely replace her. For some inexplicable reason, Bunting opted not to seek nomination which was scheduled to commence on February 6, 2017 and end on February 19 2017.
That failure to contest, paved the way for Phillips ascension as party president and Opposition Leader on March 26, 2017. Shortly after becoming Opposition Leader, Phillips removed Bunting as opposition spokesman on National Security and named him spokesman on Industry, Investment and Competitiveness. After nine years in the powerful National Security portfolio, the reassignment of Bunting was seen as a demotion by his backers and supporters. There is no evidence that portfolio shift played any role in his challenge.
This will not be the first time a member of the party will challenge a sitting party president. There is precedence. Phillips challenged Simpson Miller in 2008 following the party’s shock defeat in the 2007 General Election.
Following the East Portland defeat, the party was seen as moribund, meandering aimlessly towards an indefinite period in opposition but the challenge has generated an enthusiasm which is at a high not seen for some time now. However, there are lessons to be learnt from that Phillips challenge of Simpson Miller. There are many parallels at play. If not managed astutely, this one could render the PNP obsolete for many an election cycle.
People might ask why they should support either man without knowing what their plans are. Both have put forth some ideas. In referencing former PNP leaders Bunting said, “The young people today don’t have much interest in us telling them what Norman Manley did, and what Michael did, and what P J did, and what Portia did.” “They are not focused on the history and the past; they are focused on the present and the future, and we have to learn to engage them in the ways they want to be engaged.”
Adding further, “since Phillips became president in March 2017 he has not implemented a single transformational initiative within the party, and is just not seen as the right person for this time.” “This is the party that has to be the architect of change to ‘jook’ and prod… for poor people. It is not enough to say that employment is increasing. Being a windscreen wiper or part-time vendor may be better than nothing, but that is not providing a liveable wage for people.” said Bunting.
Arguing further that the PNP needs to articulate for change which will directly influence the living conditions of the mass of Jamaicans. As an example, he said, the current arrangements governing employment of categories of workers such as security guards and contract employees who “are one sickness away from family catastrophe, are not good enough.”
“That’s not what Michael Manley worked for in this country… We can’t say we getting one-and-a-half per cent growth and yes, the debt to GDP (gross domestic product) come down… and therefore we satisfied and the economy a gwaan. “No comrades, that is not the PNP that I joined when I was still a teenager. That is not the party that I have spent my entire life serving. Mi never join no service club you know, mi never join no lodge, neva join nuttin else but the People’s National Party. So for me, this is the party… I think of the PNP as a powerful movement for change and it is the vehicle I have chosen to give my public service to.”
Whilst Dr. Peter Phillips in revisiting the PNP’s founding principles have embraced a return to democratic socialism as a vehicle to right the ills that besets Jamaica. He has posited that this generation of PNP cadre will have to fix and eliminate poverty. Harkening to the glory days of democratic socialism in Jamaica he is quoted as saying, “I say, without reservation, that Michael Manley broke down the walls of plantation society once and for all in Jamaica.”
In recognizing that intergenerational poverty has been the major contributor to Jamaica’s bourgeoning crime problem, he proposed to institute a plan which makes $100 billion in credit available for small entrepreneurs to develop and grow their businesses.
With poverty comes migration from rural areas to urban areas which place tremendous stress on the minimal urban housing stock. That stress ultimately leads to land capture and squatting, to address that debilitating practice he has proposed a land plan that would eliminate squatting in Jamaica.
He has further added that he intends make education a priority once again.
Peter Bunting JIS photo Peter Bunting’s career Born 7 September 1960 in Clarendon Jamaica Attended Campion College (1971–1979) Undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering at McGill University in Canada (1983) Bachelor’s Degree MBA in finance from the University of Florida (1985) Citibank (1985–1987) Manufacturers’ Merchant Bank (MMB) (1998-1990) Personal advisor to then prime minister, The Rt Hon. Michael Manley in 1990 M.P South East Clarendon 1993 to 1996
In the 1993 General Elections for the South East Clarendon constituency he defeated former JLP leader and Prime Minister Hugh Lawson Shearer. At age 32 in 1993 he became the youngest MP, having beaten the legendary Shearer who had entered the election as the oldest candidate. This was a seat/constituency that was represented by the JLP’s founder and Jamaica’s first post-independence Prime Minister Sir Alexander Bustamante, and for 27 years by Hugh Shearer. M.P Central Manchester 2007 to date Launched Proven Investments Limited 2010
Mr. Peter Bunting co-founded Scotia Investments Jamaica Limited (also known as Scotia DBG Investments Limited) and served as its Chief Executive Officer and President. Mr. Bunting served as the President at the National Investment Bank of Jamaica. He served as a Managing Director at Manufacturers Merchant Bank. He was General Secretary for Peoples National Party (PNP) from 2008-2014. He has advised the Government of Jamaica, governmental agencies and statutory bodies and numerous private companies, on the raising of Equity/Debt Capital, Financial …
Dr. Peter Phillips, MP JIS photo
Peter Phillips’ career
Political economist Born in Kingston, December 28, 1949 Lecturer, University of the West Indies, 1982-1989 Senator and minister without portfolio, OPM, 1989-1994 PNP general secretary, 1991-1994 MP, East Central St Andrew since April 1994 Minister of Health, 1995-1998 PNP VP since Sept 1999- 2006 Minister of Transport and Works, Jan 1998-Oct 2001 Minister of National Security, Nov 1, 2001-Sept 2007 Opposition Leader, 2017 to date