Veteran campaigner confident Bunting will retain seat
Even before she was able to cast a vote herself, a 17-year-old Paulette Sutherland was beating the pavement to shore up votes for the People’s National Party (PNP). More than three decades later and with a deadly pandemic looming large over this year’s polls, she is just as determined.
Wooed into the PNP by her parents, Sutherland told The Gleaner that as she grew older, she realised that PNP administrations delivered the greatest benefits to all.
“My dad passed when I was 17 years old, just as I was coming out of high school, and my mom was not a working mom ... ,” she said, reflecting on her journey. “It was at that time the PNP [introduced] free education, and as a result of that, I was able to attain my teaching diploma and then my degree. If it wasn’t for Michael Manley, I would not have been able to because my mother couldn’t afford it.”
She said that although the PNP has introduced significant policies in other areas through the years, it always placed a great emphasis on education.
“That was one of my main reasons for supporting the party. I have three children, and all of them are supporters of the party,” she revealed.
Sutherland has worked in all the different roles to facilitate a smooth campaign and election process and has taught several persons who have since wet their feet in representational politics.
“I trained cluster managers, indoor agents, and all the areas in all divisions in Central Manchester. I even taught our mayor for Mandeville back in elementary school,” she said with eyes brightly beaming.
BROUGHT BY FATE
Also a canvasser in Manchester Central, where the PNP’s Peter Bunting is seeking re-election, Sutherland said she believes that it is fate that brought her to support the party and that it is her duty to help keep the engine revving.
“Even how I became a trainer is funny. It was one day I went to a session to be trained, and while there waiting for the trainer, I saw people getting restless and about to leave,” she told The Gleaner. “I am very solution-oriented, and someone said, ‘We can’t let the people leave’. So from the booklets we would have gotten, my notes and what I would have heard, I started the training and have been doing it ever since.”
After more than 30 years in the game, Sutherland said that her vision for the continuous advancement of Jamaicans keeps her motivated.
“Bunting lets us look at politics in a different way. He has brought so much to the fore. I don’t know if everybody gets it or has that level of consciousness, but he wants to teach everybody to fish. He wants people to know how to utilise the facilities around us, and that’s what I love about the whole thing – development.”
Confident that Bunting will be returned to Gordon House, Sutherland said that there was only one occasion when she felt like he would have lost the seat, which he has held since 2007.
“When he was up against Danville Walker (2011 election) and I heard the numbers, I was really panicking, but then I saw all the boxes coming in from Bellefield, and I started to calm down. That was a close one,” she recalled.
Bunting, who will face off with the Jamaica Labour Party’s Rhoda Crawford, is seeking a fourth term as member of parliament.
“We can’t take things for granted, but I don’t see his contender as a great challenger ... . We are just focusing on being prepared.”
While Sutherland believes that some voters can be swayed by a prime minister to vote for whichever party the prime minister is from without giving just thought to how local representation would be, she believes that Bunting has done enough to convince the electorate in Manchester Central to back him again.
“The prime minister has a lot of influence, but I know Peter (Bunting) will pull through and do well because he does his work, right through the time,” she said. “He has laid the foundation, and you have people who love the handout, but what he has done is more than any one handout ... . His work speaks for itself.”