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Mixed reactions - Jamaican politicians in Florida weigh in on PNP presidential outcome

Published:Sunday | September 15, 2019 | 12:30 AMKaryl Walker - Gleaner Writer
Dr Peter Phillips (left) talks with defeated presidential challenger Peter Bunting outside Gordon House on Tuesday.
Dale Holness
Mark Douglas

At least two members of the Jamaican diaspora in South Florida, who are involved in representational politics, have added their voice to the recent People’s National Party (PNP) presidential battle.

Incumbent Dr Peter Phillips defeated challenger Peter Bunting by a narrow margin of 76 votes, to earn a 51 per cent to 49 per cent win at the National Arena last Saturday. Ninety-six per cent of the 3,000 PNP delegates voted.

City Commissioner for Sunrise in Broward County, Mark Douglas, is not pleased with the outcome. Douglas, an attorney who was born in Chapelton, Clarendon, but now resides and represents thousands of residents, including Jamaicans, of the city of Sunrise, believes it was a retrograde step.

“It is a real damn shame. I don’t think Phillips will ever become prime minister and I don’t think the PNP is ready to take on the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) and Andrew Holness. What we are seeing is a weak Opposition. It is not just about the PNP delegates, the country needs a strong Opposition,” Douglas told The Sunday Gleaner.

He likened the recent challenge by Bunting to the failed ‘gang of five’ challenge mounted against former leader of the JLP, Edward Seaga, in October 1990. Seaga managed to stave off that challenge, but the JLP never again saw the seat of power until he resigned from active politics in 2005.

“Phillips lacks appeal to the younger voters. He seems to have a challenge communicating his vision for the country and almost half the delegates have given him a vote of no-confidence,” Douglas said.


Commissioner for Broward County, Dale Holness, chose to wash his hands akin to Pontius Pilate, and opted instead to praise the democratic political process that prevails in Jamaica.

“I think both of them are capable. Phillips is experienced and I like what Bunting brings. However, I am very proud as a Jamaican that we stuck to the democratic process and that we allow for the voice of the people to be heard in the selection of our leadership. It is very empowering when the people select who leads them,” Holness said.

Holness, who hails from Trelawny and is a real estate broker by trade, represents the 1,950,000 residents of Broward County.

He called on the entire Jamaica to unite around building the economy and making the country safer for all who wish to return home.

“Party politics aside, one of the biggest concerns we have in the diaspora is our safety should we decide to return home. That is more important to us right now,” he said.