Fenton rises with Bunting

Ferguson backs Manchester Central MP as the 'right choice' to lead PNP

BY HG HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 11, 2019

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DR Fenton Ferguson has thrown his full support behind Peter Bunting for the top post in the Opposition People's National Party.

Dr Ferguson, a six-term Member of Parliament for St Thomas Eastern, confirmed to the Jamaica Observer yesterday that he would not support the man he had gone with in previous presidential elections — Dr Peter Phillips — in next month's election to determine who leads the 81-year-old political party.

News of Dr Ferguson's decision is likely to shake the ground on which supporters of Dr Phillips stand, as the dental surgeon has been a long and devout supporter of the now PNP president. He had, early in the campaign, said that he would remain neutral.

“I am confirming that I will support Comrade Peter Bunting in the election to determine who leads the People's National Party next month,” Dr Ferguson told the Sunday Observer yesterday in an exclusive interview.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions, and I did not come to it lightly. My family, constituents, my family and friends are going to be rising,” Dr Ferguson said shortly before darting off to attend the funeral service of a fallen friend in St Thomas.

“I would have worked very closely with Dr Phillips over the years. I have supported Phillips in both his contests for leadership in 2006 and 2008 and, while it was a painful decision, I believed that Phillips was the best prepared at the time,” Dr Ferguson went on.

“Unquestionably, Phillips has performed solidly in his ministerial responsibilities, in particular his foundational role in setting the country on an irreversible path of macro-economic stability. That is laudable. At the same time it must be recognised, to the party's credit, that these are two excellent candidates for leadership at this time. On the one hand you have Phillips, a man who has excelled not only at the ministerial level, but importantly as a party functionary — critically in his role as general secretary. Bunting, too, was an exceptional general secretary and a path-breaking minister, but importantly, a Comrade who has risen from a working class background — farming – to be a definite leader in the financial sector,” Dr Ferguson said.

In presidential contests of 2006, Dr Ferguson was one of the leaders of Dr Phillips's campaign to fill the vacancy left by the retirement from active politics of PJ Patterson. That four-way contest also featured Dr Omar Davies, Dr E Karl Blythe, and the eventual winner, Portia Simpson Miller.

Two years later, Dr Phillips challenged Simpson Miller for the only time, with Dr Ferguson again playing a pivotal role in that campaign, also a losing one.

Dr Ferguson's move may be seen by some close to the political process as related to a fallout from the Annual Conference of the PNP last year when he lost his vice- presidential post, after ending up the VP with most votes by any officer, including Simpson Miller, in the internal party elections of 2016.

Only recently, the other losing vice-president in 2018, Dr Angela Brown Burke, joined the Bunting team as its campaign director, sparking a backlash from her husband, a Dr Phillips supporter, Paul Burke, also a former PNP general secretary, who said she had “deceived” him. He subsequently apologised to his wife.

In listing his reasons for opting for Bunting and his 'Rise United' campaign, Dr Ferguson outlined:

“Having weighed the leadership prospects of both men dispassionately, there are a number of things that must be looked at:

(1) “Duty to party over personal loyalty;

(2) “Disappointing by-election results;

(3) “Worrying political strategies and decisions, some of which have led to this challenge

(4) “There is an unfortunate but clear assessment that the Jamaican populace has not warmed to Phillips as a leader and future prime minister. In fact, as you now see, there is also a strong internal division on the leadership question as well.

(5) “There is a towering influence of young people in the political process, with Bunting having a distinct advantage especially among the 18 to 40 age group. This speaks volumes towards our efforts to regain State power. Clearly, the Don Anderson polls show it. Bunting's challenge has energised the party, increased its political prospects, and pulled out hundreds of young people.

(6) “I am convinced that Peter Bunting would defeat Andrew Holness in a general election. The polls point to a rising momentum in that, regard and in that I must give precedence to the party over my personal relationships.

(7) “Bunting, an engineer and the holder of a MBA, is perfectly positioned to meet the challenges of the new, emerging world. I have spoken to him and I'm indeed convinced of his sincerity and his attributes to lead us to victory. He has never lost an election and there have been more than a few difficult contests as well.”

Describing himself as a “true patriot”, Dr Ferguson said that his decision was made with the best interest of the Jamaican people in mind.

“Having done the analysis, I am clear that I have made the correct decision that Peter Bunting is the right choice at this time for president of the People's National Party. So, we rise united,” Dr Ferguson said.

Approximately 2,900 delegates are expected to vote on the first day of the party's annual conference set for National Arena in St Andrew on September 7.

Among the other PNP parliamentarians who have declared their support for Bunting are Ronald Thwaites, Dr Dayton Campbell, Ian Hayles, Clive Fagan, Luther Buchanan, Michael Stewart, and Robert Pickersgill.

Support for Dr Phillips at the parliamentary level has come from Dr K Wykeham McNeill, Dr Morais Guy, Phillip Paulwell, Lisa Hanna, Natalie Neita, KD Knight, Damion Crawford, Mikael Phillips, Denise Daley, Dwayne Vaz, Donna Scott Mottley, Lambert Brown, among others.


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