Need to win makes leadership change necessary, say Bunting supporters
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — For St Ann North Western Member of Parliament Dayton Campbell, a simple question goes to the heart of the matter.
“How could it be that we have the most corrupt government in the history of this country but by all indications and polls we (People's National Party) can't win...?” Campbell asked during the People's National Party (PNP) Knockpatrick Divisional meeting at May Day High School on Sunday night.
The answer, said Campbell as he endorsed the decision of Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting to challenge for leadership of the PNP, was that “something is not right, something is not right” within his party.
Without saying so in as many words, Campbell suggested that current party President Dr Peter Phillips had become unelectable and that the party, in its own interests, had to move on.
“It is the duty of every single PNP to ask themselves the question: What is the best choice for the PNP to win an election? And then we have to support the best choice for us to win an election,” he said.
He insisted that the move to unseat Phillips “is not about emotion...” but was aimed at allowing the party to fulfil its responsibility to take political power, eradicate widespread corruption, and defend the interests of Jamaicans most in need.
Campbell was among several speakers throwing their weight behind Bunting at the first public event for the PNP in the constituency, after the former Cabinet minister announced his intention to contest the PNP presidency.
Michael Stewart, Member of Parliament for Manchester Southern, declared that his constituency would not be “left behind”, assuring Bunting that “we are with you at this time...”
Like Campbell, Stewart observed that the PNP had failed to gain “traction” despite numerous corruption scandals afflicting the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government. “...Something is wrong in the top tier of the party and we need to take stock,” he said.
A medical doctor, Campbell said that on a daily basis he was hearing the cry for change in the PNP.
“Anybody in the PNP who a pretend like they don't hear that, they are liars because every single one of us hear it every day,” said Campbell.
He dismissed criticism that Bunting's challenge was selfish. He appeared to suggest that, if anything, that accusation would be more appropriately directed at the party president.
“This is not about selfish ambition. The selfish ambition would be to know that I can't win but I still hold on like weh Eddie Seaga (the late Jamaican prime minister and JLP leader) do to the Labour Party. We do not want the People's National Party to be Seagarised...,” he said to cheers.
The PNP, said Campbell, needed to rediscover “its soul” in order to successfully contest for State power and for government to defend the interests of the mass of the people.
He voiced the belief that Bunting would strive to “modernise” the party while strengthening internal democracy, allowing views to contend, and facilitating avenues for the ideas generated at group (party grass roots) level to reach the hierarchy.
Campbell poured scorn on those whom he said sought to portray Bunting's wealth as a “disadvantage”. Instead, he said, Bunting's success as an investment manager boded well should he some day take charge of the Jamaican Government.
Others voicing strong support for Bunting at the divisional meeting included mayor of Mandeville and councillor for the Royal Flat Division Donovan Mitchell, and former Mayor of Black River Everton Fisher (Balaclava Division).
Guest speaker at the conference, Dr Shane Alexis, caretaker for St Mary South Eastern, made it clear that he was there as a neutral in the expected leadership contest.
He reminded his audience that after the contest is over, Comrades must come together as “one” to defeat a “corrupt” JLP Government.
The contending forces should make sure that at all times there is due respect shown to others, he said.
The need for Comradely “love and respect” during the internal campaign was a recurring theme for speakers at the divisional conference, including Bunting who said he would “denounce” any supporter who betrayed that principle.