Monday 1 June, 2020

‘Cease fire’ agreement hammered out between Phillips and Bunting

Peter Bunting (left) and Dr Peter Phillips.

Peter Bunting (left) and Dr Peter Phillips.

Newly re-elected President of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP), Dr Peter Phillips, has indicated that a number of agreements were reached during Tuesday’s meeting with Peter Bunting.

The following the latter’s unsuccessfully challenge for the party’s top post.

The contest between the two ended at a special delegates’ conference on Saturday at the National Arena in St Andrew, during which Phillips received 1,457 votes to Bunting’s 1,351 - a victory margin of 76 votes.

There was an impressive 96 per cent turnout of the 2,908 eligible delegates.

At a press conference at the party’s Old Hope Road headquarters in St Andrew on Wednesday, Phillips revealed that a number of measures were agreed on out of the meeting with Bunting, which were applicable to both his OnePNP team and Bunting’s Rise United camp.

Phillips said both sides agreed to appoint a team that would meet to discuss issues that could cause conflicts; to disband their campaigns; and that there would be no recrimination or victimisation arising from the presidential election.

In an attempt to quickly heal the party and reunite the two sides, Phillips said the party was focused on looking forward.

“In every family from time to time, there are moments of friction and tension, and in well-ordered families, this reality of life is overcome by people exchanging views about issues that arose.

“We have set up inside of the party, the mechanisms to facilitate the re-emergence of a more unified, collective approach and, as (have) been the case in the past, I have every confidence that now we will go forward together with some unity of purpose,” he said.

The PNP president also sought to downplay the level of acrimony that was stirred by the bruising campaign.

“I don’t think we should think that this period in history is in anyway more extreme than things that have occurred at times in the past,” he argued.

When pressed about whether any sanctions will be applied to Bunting where breaches of party rule or conventions may have been committed by his Rise United campaign, Phillips said: “Our mind now is more positive going forward, not on looking back”.

And he insisted he's not of the view that either side in the contest is now looking at the situation with a mind-set that says: “How can we settle a score… and impose a penalty on someone”?

Phillips, whose team ran a much more low-key campaign than Bunting’s hi-tech, ad-driven variation, indicated that he was unable to say how much money was spent by the OnePNP team.

However, he revealed it was largely funded by small donations from persons all across the country, members of the party, and some contributions from corporate Jamaica.

“What I valued was the number of small donations that came from people all across the country willing to give a $20,000 here, a $10,000 there, a $50,000 there, who contributed the greater share of what came to our campaign,” Phillips said.

Meanwhile, the party leader said the PNP will be conducting an internal probe into allegations of vote buying that were made during the presidential election.

The allegations were made on September 4 by Lisa Hanna, the Member of Parliament (MP) for South East St Ann, who was the communications director for Phillips’ OnePNP team during the campaign.

Amid the trading of insults and accusations in the lead-up to the polls, Hanna told journalists during the press conference that she had evidence of vote buying by the Bunting-led team.

“I can say with certainty and clarity and evidence that even in my constituency yesterday (Tuesday, September 3) morning at 8 am, a leader of the Rise (United) team was there offering and giving and issuing envelopes containing $10,000,” Hanna stated.

“And every time he went to a delegate and left the envelope, I was called."

Responding in a statement the following day, the Rise United team also accused the OnePNP camp of vote buying, and of trying to intimidate delegate voting with the help of “so-called washed-up dons”.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Phillips told journalists that all the claims and other allegations that were made during the bitter campaign will be investigated internally.

On Monday, corruption watchdog National Integrity Action wrote to Political Ombudsman, Donna Parchment-Brown urging her to launch an investigation into the vote buying allegations, as well as the claims that the services of ‘dons’ were engaged to influence delegates.

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