The disunity set on by the presidential challenge in the People’s National Party was on full display yesterday at the public session of the party’s 81st annual conference.
Peter Bunting, who lost by 76 votes to the incumbent Dr Peter Phillips, did not address the Comrades at the public session, a situation which raised eyebrows among onlookers.
Bunting, who had campaigned telling Comrades that Phillips could not defeat the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party at the polls, said he did not to address the conference because of internal resistance within the party.
He was originally scheduled to address the Comrades at 12:35 p.m., outside of prime time, for five minutes.
Sources said yesterday that Phillips’ supporters opposed Bunting’s speech as they were not sure what message he would have brought or how he would have been received.
“Different people have different opinions, and I think that it is better that we wait until all are welcoming of the initiative rather than force it too quickly,” Bunting said, addressing the issue.
One of Bunting’s allies said that despite public and private efforts to show unity, some from Phillips’ camp had been less than warm behind closed doors.
“Our people have been getting bad vibes ever since, and I am not sure where all of this will take us, but it seems as if it will be a while before anything substantial [in terms of unity] is achieved because, according to them, we are the losers, so we have no say in anything. So it is a ‘wait and see’ from here,” said the member of parliament, who asked not to be named out of fear of being further targeted.
Bunting surrogates, including Ian Hayles, Mark Golding, and Dayton Campbell, were all pushed to the back seat of the conference, and they appeared less than ecstatic about the afternoon’s proceedings.
In the meantime, Bunting said he has shed leadership ambitions, for now.
“That is not on the table now at all. We have had the contest, and the delegates have spoken. We accept that and now move forward under the leadership of Dr Peter Phillips to the next general election,” he said in response to queries about his next move.