Wed | Sep 18, 2019

Peters Clash - PNP presidential race comes to a head today

Published:Saturday | September 7, 2019 | 12:15 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
PNP delegates will choose between Dr Peter Phillips (left) and Peter Bunting to become party president in today's polls.

The cookie crumbles today.

After weeks of intense campaigning, delegates will today bring the curtains down on the high-stakes leadership race in the People’s National Party (PNP).

Just under 3,000 electors are eligible for the exercise, which kicks off at 10 a.m. and is slated to conclude at 4 p.m. as they select either incumbent Dr Peter Phillips or challenger Peter Bunting as the man to lead the party as it looks to wrest power from the ruling Jamaica Labour Party in the next general election.

The Electoral Office of Jamaica will oversee the polls at the National Arena, where representatives from the two camps and members of the party secretariat conducted a final site visit yesterday.

However, Thursday’s removal of the secretariat’s media liaison officer, Damion Gordon, has thrown the media accreditation process into a tailspin, leaving journalists without accreditation prior to the event.

Gordon as well as Dexroy Martin and Nathan Curtis were relieved of liaison duties following a meeting with PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson on Thursday. The trio were reportedly dumped after Phillips’ One PNP campaign manager, Natalie Neita, expressed concerns to the general secretary in a September 4 letter that the three were supporters of Bunting’s Rise United team.

The three were relieved of their duties as Robinson said that he wanted no accusations pointed at the secretariat, which he heads, when the dust settles today. Members of the party secretariat are forbidden from showing support to either candidate.

“There were some issues, and I have said I do not want the secretariat to be accused of anything improper, so I have asked that they have nothing to do with proceedings on the day,” Robinson said yesterday.

Krystal Tomlinson was brought on board yesterday to try to expedite the accreditation process.

At the same time, Robinson said that his and PNP Chairman Fitz Jackson’s appearance at Phillips’ constituency conference last weekend was in keeping with the tradition of everyone attending the party leader’s conference.

“Basil Waite (deputy general secretary) chairs his (Phillips’) conference every year. I brought greetings, which is customary. Fitz Jackson, as chairman, also spoke,” Robinson explained.

He did not agree that Jackson’s speech was a “campaign speech” but admitted that individuals who are unaware of traditions could misconstrue the actions as showing support for Phillips.

“Until the delegates vote, he (Phillips) is still the leader,” Robinson insisted.

Phillips is a three-time challenger for the PNP presidency. He lost his two previous bids to Portia Simpson Miller.

It is Bunting’s first time going up for the post.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com