Show of force - Thousands of Comrades turn out to nominate Phillips, Bunting
Throngs of People’s National Party (PNP) supporters turned out yesterday to nominate the two candidates lining up for the September 7 presidential election to lead the 81-year-old party.
The first contender to arrive was Peter Bunting, the Manchester Central member of parliament (MP) and former PNP general secretary. At about 9:30, Bunting was ushered into the party’s Old Hope Road, St Andrew, headquarters by an army of supporters, who marched with him from Stadium East, up Mountain View Avenue and on to Old Hope Road.
Donning black hats and T-Shirts emblazoned with ‘We Can Win’ on the front and ‘Rise United’ at the back, they danced, pranced and made merry in a party-like atmosphere.
“As we move into the delegate-engagement stage, we are now into sort of classroom-style, with delegates from dozens of constituencies across Jamaica. I am really encouraged by everything that has happened so far,” Bunting told journalists shortly after filing his papers.
He heaped praises on to his team of “literally hundreds and thousands of Comrades”, who he said were sometimes running ahead of the campaign, giving endorsements and encouragement “with their enthusiasm, organisation, passion and commitment”.
Bunting, 58, expressed confidence that he would be getting the nod from the majority of the 2,800 delegates who will select the next PNP leader on his birthday.
“I am comfortable that we can exceed the minimum number of delegates needed to win, but we are not going to get complacent. There are still quite a few weeks to get to September 7, and we will be working every day, diligently, to engage delegates to make the case to them and to ensure that, come the evening of September 7, I will have a happy birthday,” Bunting said.
Next up was Dr Peter Phillips, the incumbent PNP president and St Andrew East Central MP, ushered in by at multitude of jubilant backers.
Making their way from Independence Park, up Stanton Terrace and then on to Old Hope Road to arrive at about 11 a.m., Phillips’ One PNP train rolled into the party’s headquarters with hundreds of supporters wearing bright-orange T-shirts, hats, and carrying other paraphernalia as a sound system amped the atmosphere.
Flanked by the party’s four sitting vice-presidents, Phillips made his way to the nomination centre.
“It is looking very well,” he said of delegates’ support and expectation at the finish line.
He was non-committal, however, about the number of votes he was expecting.
Phillips, 69, made the case for his return to the post, looking even further ahead to the next general election.
“We are committed to clean governance and an economic structure which is inclusive of the broad majority of our people – the small entrepreneurs and the workers who are now being described as contract workers when in reality they are full-time workers. That is our mission, ultimately, and we remain committed to it,” Phillips told journalists.
The two camps, which together numbered in the thousands, then threw verbal jabs at each other, eliciting laughter all around when the Phillips camp referred to the supporters of the challenger as the “ray-ray” team and the Bunting camp fired back, labelling them as the “wheelchair” supporters.
Nomination proceedings were over before midday and the mass of Comrades returned to their respective bases to continue the festivities.
While there were no reports of violence, the resulting traffic congestion and dislocation resulted in great inconvenience to commuters.