THE Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) appears to be making a last-ditch attempt at unity which will see major changes within its ranks, including one at the level of the parliamentary directorate.
Party officials would not confirm it yesterday, but the Jamaica Observer can report that by Tuesday, Peter Bunting will be sitting in the chair reserved for Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, a piece of furniture last used by Dr Morais Guy during the extended sitting of Parliament last Wednesday, June 17.
Bunting’s cellular phone went unanswered when the Sunday Observer tried to reach him yesterday.
However, impeccable Sunday Observer sources said that an agreement had been struck for Bunting to take over from Dr Guy, and also for some of the people who supported Bunting in the bruising PNP presidential election last September 7 — Bunting’s birthday — when incumbent party President Dr Peter Phillips defeated him by 76 votes to be included in a new-look PNP heading into a general election due by next February, but expected late this year.
A suggestion was also made by one PNP Member of Parliament yesterday that Dr Guy had not been “strident enough” in his role as Leader of Opposition Business in the House, thereby necessitating the change.
The Sunday Observer can also report that this is not the first time that Bunting has been offered the job of Leader of Opposition Business in the House, as after losing to Dr Phillips, the party leader had extended the hand of friendship to him to lead the party’s affairs at Gordon House, named after National Hero George William Gordon and which borders volatile communities in Kingston Western and Kingston Central.
But a fundamental disagreement over the PNP’s position on the states of emergency, and that of Bunting, extinguished sparks that were ignited during the internal talks. The PNP leadership have embraced the state of emergency, but Bunting consistently opposes it, and it was felt that the Leader of Opposition Business in the House could not be one who went against the security measure, while his leader, and other executives supported it, even conditionally, party sources said.
Bunting had also requested that some members of the team that supported him should be kept in the Shadow Cabinet, the source said.
In the end, Bunting, whose presidential campaign was dubbed ‘Rise United’, suggested to Dr Phillips that he would be comfortable with being the party’s spokesman on education, with ‘Training’ added to the nomenclature, one key source told the Sunday Observer.
It is understood that Dr Phillips, who revealed in early April that he was receiving treatment for stage three cancer of the colon, will officially announce Bunting’s elevation by tomorrow, and inform the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pearnel Charles Sr, of the change when the House next sits on Tuesday.
It is unclear if Dr Guy, a medical practitioner and Member of Parliament for St Mary Central, will continue in his role as Opposition spokesman on health, while he battles to consolidate the seat that was once regarded as a PNP bastion, but is now listed on the edge of the ‘marginal’ column.
Word also reaching the Sunday Observer is that Bunting will be announced as co-campaign director with Phillip Paulwell, the latter a PNP vice-president and MP for Kingston Eastern and Port Royal.
Lisa Hanna, Miss World beauty queen of 1993 and MP for St Ann South Eastern, who is the party’s spokesperson for foreign affairs and foreign trade, will be chief campaign spokesperson, our source said..
There will also be roles for vice-president Damion Crawford, who is in charge of the team crafting the party’s manifesto; and Mark Golding, MP for St Andrew Southern.
Dr Phillips held meetings last week with members of a group of 15 PNP MPs who wrote to him, collectively, stating, among other things, their concern for, and ignorance of election preparations by the party, as well as his medical state.
It is understood that the talks were amicable and there was a spirit of frankness all round.
Shortly after members of the ‘Rise United’ team returned to Parliament in September 2019, the seating arrangements were changed, which saw many of them bunched together towards the back, in what one member of the team suggested was “a blatant attempt to spread the poison of disunity, and further divide the party”.
“Good sense has finally prevailed and now we are going to see more of the ‘Rise’ supporters given roles in the upcoming campaign, which occurred after one letter, and meetings with the party president,” one senior PNP official said yesterday. “It seems like someone forgot that without the members of the ‘Rise United’ team that pressed for a new party president last year, the PNP has no chance of winning even a parish council (local government or municipal) election, let alone forming the next Government after a general election.
“Nobody wants to remain in opposition forever, and this is why it is so alarming that things had to take so long to strike a chord of harmony, if not unity,” the official said.
The Sunday Observer also understands that Dr Phillips will shake up his Shadow Cabinet soon.
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