Who will replace Bunting? Pryce, Burke, Robinson said to be front-runners
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
The race is on in earnest to fill the position of General Secretary of the People's National Party (PNP) when embattled National Security Minister Peter Bunting is expected to resign from that post later this month.
At least three persons are expected to line up to fill the powerful position that could become vacant in March if Bunting accedes to a request by PNP President Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to stay on until then.
Well-placed insiders disclosed that Bunting will not formally announce his resignation until the next meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the PNP set for January 26.
Chairman Robert Pickersgill told The Gleaner that he is yet to receive any formal word of Bunting's impending resignation and could not comment until then.
For his part, Bunting told The Gleaner, last year that he would not venture into the next general election bearing the general secretary tag.
The three expected to race to the line are Paul Burke, the former Region Three chairman, and deputy leaders Julian Robinson and Raymond Pryce.
Gleaner sources say Simpson Miller is targeting Burke, one of her political loyalists, to replace Bunting.
Although Bunting is expected to formally announce that he will be stepping aside at the next meeting of the NEC on the last Sunday of January, The Gleaner can report that Simpson Miller has asked him to stay on until March.
Well-placed insiders told The Gleaner Simpson Miller is buying time to mobilise support for Burke, who has constantly thrown his support behind her, particularly in the 2006 and 2008 leadership elections.
It is understood that while Burke is Simpson Miller's choice, many in the party are looking at long-standing Deputy General Secretary Julian Robinson.
"He has been a solid deputy general secretary for a number of years and many believe he should be the front-runner," a prominent NEC member insider told The Gleaner. "But it is left up to the members of the NEC and so it (the appointment) is not a given."
For his part, Robinson said he was not in a position to comment until Bunting officially states his position. "I am waiting on whether Peter will announce his decision," said Robinson. "That is the principled thing to do."
While he did not say he was not interested, Burke said he was not in a position to comment at this time. "I honestly and truthfully know of no vacancy ... I have no information to verify that Comrade Bunting has offered his resignation and, therefore, there is nothing further I can discuss on the matter."
Bunting has had a rather unusual stint as general secretary of the PNP, as he reportedly did not have the same quality of relationship with Simpson Miller the late Donald Buchanan and Colin Campbell enjoyed with her in their capacity of general secretary, or Burchell Whiteman with P.J. Patterson.
A Facebook criticism of Simpson Miller was said to sour the relationship between the two, although they made yeoman efforts to conceal this.
He was also severely criticised for his lack of accessibility in comparison to his deputies, Pryce and Robinson.
The Gleaner was told that the PNP insiders already knew of Bunting's impending departure, although nothing has been said in the public domain by party officials about his troubling stint as national security minister.
Bunting has been coming under increased public pressure with the murder rate spiralling out of control.