Jamaica’s Opposition Leader and President of the People National Party (PNP) Dr. Peter Phillips is in a spot of bother.
He now faces a challenge for the leadership of the party from Peter Bunting, Member of Parliament, and former Minister of National Security as well as General Secretary of the Party.
Bunting’s quest to replace Dr. Phillips is not only a daunting one but also brave and courageous.
Bunting’s action is part of what democracy ought to be about in Jamaica’s political setup. No one should assume leadership for life, by surrounding oneself with yes men and yes women.
The fact of the matter is Dr. Phillips has no divine right to lead the PNP in perpetuity.
Also, one should not forget that Phillips was a challenger for the position of President of the PNP in 2006 and 2008.
Notwithstanding, many pundits have questioned the move by Bunting, and have described it as indecent haste to seek to unseat the incumbent leader.
Dr. Phillips, of course, has been not only a longstanding and faithful servant to the party but more importantly an outstanding one.
However, this does not mean one should be a sycophant, even though party loyalty is essential and deemed necessary in politicking, it ought not to be at all cost.
Bunting, therefore, is not prepared to stand idly by and see the PNP take another shellacking from the governing Jamaica Labor Party (JLP).
Consequently, he has decided to be a disrupter by challenging Dr. Peter Phillips as he sees him as lacking the ability to influence and motivate people.
Bunting has charged that Phillips has not implemented a single transformational initiative in the party since he has assumed the leadership in 2017.
“Dr. Phillips has made an outstanding contribution to the party and the country in the various positions in which he has served over the past three decades. However, since becoming president, he has not implemented a single transformational initiative within the party and is just not seen as the right person for this time. There is also a growing acceptance/resignation in the general public and amongst various stakeholder groups, including party membership and supporters, civil society, and private sector leadership that the PNP under Dr Peter Phillips’ leadership cannot defeat the JLP in a general election,” declared Bunting.
The truth is the erstwhile entrepreneur, now prudent and wily politician, 58-year-old Bunting is about winning. He has picked up on cues that there is no clear path for Phillips to win the next general election against the young and dynamic JLP leader Andrew Holness.
That said, there is no guarantee that Bunting will win the leadership race against Phillips let alone a general election against Holness.
However, Bunting must be commended for throwing his hat in the ring even if the outcome is to force the PNP to rethink its strategies going forward.
On the other hand, Dr. Peter Phillips cannot continue to pussyfoot around by waiting for Holness to drop the ball. He must show initiative and drive, by positioning the PNP as a direct contrast to the JLP both in philosophy and practice.
After all, the sameness of both political parties as presented today does not offer the Jamaican electorate any clear choice, except for personnel and personalities.
The fact is, there is no big idea coming from either party to make the majority of Jamaicans “lively up themselves.” So, although the economy appears to be doing better than in the past, the masses continue to suffer.
Now, citing former Prime Minister Michael Manley and his appeal for party renewal, Bunting notes, “The PNP’s historical role has always been the architect of change… Somebody has to be the agent of change. To think about change and betterment; how to do it, inspire towards it, jook and prod and upset people as you achieve it. Somebody has to do that. Right now, the PNP is very much a sedate manager for a set of givens. If the whole political system becomes incapable of renewal through challenge, and I put it that way deliberately, then you’re going to find that the system will begin to lose credibility, lose momentum; young people will have less and less faith in it, and the terrible cynicism which is such a problem in Jamaica today can become entrenched.”
Bunting has clearly positioned himself as this agent or architect of change, however, the PNP under either Peter has a massive challenge in wresting power away from the governing JLP. Can it be done?
One can only wait to see whether both Peters pan out to be the same on the political landscape as Peter Red and Peter Blue of past cigarette marketing fame. Or, on the other hand, lift the PNP to new and greater heights.
Carol Maye, Readers Bureau, Fellow
Edited by Jesus Chan
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