Peter Bunting jolly well knew what he was saying and doing

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, March 11, 2018

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Wisdom is not like money to be tied up and hidden. — Akan proverb

The inner recesses of the mind of Member of Parliament for Manchester Central, former minister of national security and seemingly wannabe president of Norman Manley's party, Peter Bunting, gushed out onto the public pavement last week. So, too, did Reverend Dr Garnet Roper's — an insider of the People's National Party. The contents were deeply disturbing.

I am not surprised.

These excerpts are a timely reminder that slavery and colonialism are also states of mind:

“In a sense, he reminds me of the black Englishman of colonial times who aspired to be sort of black royalty,” Bunting charged, controversially, in a video on social media site Facebook.

According to Bunting, Clarke has 'great British education and sort of mimicking the values and the affectations of the former colonial masters'.

“The former national security minister argued that Clarke's personality contrasted with that of his People's National Party (PNP) opponent Keisha Hayle, who he claimed has a 'rural and down-to-earth ethos'.

“Clarke is a Rhodes scholar and has affiliations with the University of Oxford, The University of the West Indies, and serves as the chief operating officer at the Musson Group.

“He also serves on a number of boards and has been an ambassador at large in the Andrew Holness Administration, according to his profile on Bloomberg.

“However, Bunting, a high-profile banker, argued that the people of Jamaica have adopted an elitist mentality in deciding the profile of those who should seek representation.” ( The Gleaner, March 5, 2018)

A few who should know better have suggested that Messrs Bunting and Roper must have been in a state of near delirium to broadcast such benighted utterances. Really? Bunting and Roper are the beneficiaries of many years of schooling. The Gleaner of July 30, 2017, reported that Reverend Roper declared his support for the decriminalisation of buggery. He was chided by Bishop Alvin Bailey, president of the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance. Roper did not spare any change in advertising his academic marbles. “According to Roper, Bailey is in no position to counsel him as he is several years his senior in terms of ministry and considerably more well-trained.” ( The Gleaner, July 30, 2017)

Dr Roper is president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary. Bunting and Roper jolly well knew what they were saying and doing. No amount of suspension of reality can excuse them.

Recall, Bunting likened some Jamaica Labour Party supporters to John Crows in 2015. ( Nationwide News Network, July 13, 2015)

Does a leopard change its spots? The late American civil rights advocate and poet, Dr Maya Angelou, said: “When people show you who they are, believe them...When a person says to you, 'I'm selfish,' or 'I'm mean,' or 'I am unkind,' believe them. They know themselves much better than you do.”

Stream of consciousness

Recall, I wrote, among other things, several months ago: “Bunting, the birds shriek, has moved ideologically to the far left of the party in the hope that he can enhance and hasten his chances of becoming president of the PNP. The birds whistle that signs of another leadership struggle in the PNP are imminent.” ( Sunday Observer, August 20, 2017)

Bunting was sent to political never-never land in September of last year by president of the PNP and Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition Dr Peter Phillips. Before Bunting's exile to the political Elba called shadow spokesperson for industry, investment and competitiveness, he was up and down the highways and byways of media almost daily. Then Bunting was shadow spokesperson on national security. His wings were strategically clipped, as we say in local parlance, by Fitz Jackson, a confidant of Phillips. Too late! By then Bunting had already signalled a jump to the political left of the PNP.

Recall his protestations about a new type of “economic colonialism” by China in Jamaica: “Fifty-five years of our Independence from Britain, many Jamaicans are concerned that we are once again undergoing a new form of colonialism — a form of economic colonialism by Chinese operating in Jamaica.” ( The Gleaner, August 10, 2017)

After Bunting's tirade, members of the PNP's hierarchy were quick to distance themselves from him. These excerpts tell a story:

“The People's National Party (PNP) has distanced itself from its spokesman on national security, Peter Bunting, for publicly lashing out against the Chinese dominance in the construction sector, suggesting that its former general secretary was premature in his stinging criticisms of the foreign nationals.

“General secretary of the PNP, Julian Robinson, while acknowledging that the issue of the Chinese dominance in certain sectors was being discussed internally in the party, said that the PNP had not come to a final determination as to how the matter would be treated.

“Robinson said the party was not aware that Bunting was going to go public with the issue.

“ 'We believe that where those issues arise the best way to approach them would be to call the Government or the specific companies and seek to resolve them at that level in the first instance, and determine whether a solution can be had before there is a public discourse,' Robinson said.

“The general secretary disclosed that several high-ranking members of the PNP had a meeting with the Chinese ambassador yesterday, but Bunting was not invited.” ( The Gleaner, August 15, 2017)

No opposition

Today is six days since the deeply offensive comments by Bunting and Roper. At time of writing this sentence, 3:31 am, Thursday, March 8, 2018, 89 Old Hope Road has not issued a statement to put night and day between the makers of the disgusting comments and the party.

Why? Is it that Dr Phillips et al are afraid to cast another political stone against Bunting — who the birds tweet control the lion's share of the monied faction in the PNP which is dwindling fast. Is it that Dr Phillips is so weak a political skipper that he is mortally afraid of a political mutiny?

The birds have been on the alert for many weeks. Their songs have been consistent. Recall, “The birds, those ubiquitous and reliable Black-bellied Plovers, Banana Quits, and John Chewits are chirping that Dr Peter Phillips is under severe pressure within his party to make a greater impression on the country's electorate, in particular the youth. They sing that some in the upper echelons of the PNP are upset at recent pictures of Phillips apparently dozing at public events. They also warble that Phillips's landownership commission promise — the intended 'counteraction' to the Andrew Holness Administration's already implemented $1.5-million tax break — has not gained noticeable traction, especially among the youth.” ( Sunday Observer, August 20, 2017)

I wrote in this newspaper several months ago that Dr Phillips will be the first PNP president not to be prime minister of Jamaica. He may also be the shortest-serving PNP president.

No apology

Bunting has refused to apologise for his caustic statements: “Under-fire Central Manchester Member of Parliament Peter Bunting has refused to bow to public calls for him to apologise. Still, the Opposition spokesman was adamant that The Gleaner only selected a few lines out of the seven-minute-long video with him and Roper.” ( The Gleaner, March 7, 2018)

I believe his actions are calculated and consistent with a move to the political left of the PNP. Political bravado! He knows that some key insiders who were willing and are still willing to support his rise to the pinnacle of the PNP are still upset that he capitulated at the 11th hour when the presidency became vacant last year.

This warning by deputy general secretary of the PNP Luther Buchanan is evidently ringing in the ears of Peter Bunting: “You can't look at renewal if you are going for a 1980 model Benz... Of fundamental importance, if we are to go to an election in 2020 or 2021, the age difference is that a 70-odd-year-old leader of the People's National Party will have to be sold against a 50-year-old [Andrew] Holness.” ( The Star, December 9, 2016).

The Methuselah Complex is disappearing in the PNP, and fast. Time is running out for both Peters. The five Comrades who have indicated their interests to serve as deputies are not singing Freddie McGregor's lyrics: “And so I will wait for you, just as long as you want me to/ Yes, I'll wait for you, I know you'll come through/ I hope you'll find that the things you need are the things you had with me/ Yes, I'll wait for you, you know I'll wait.”

No surprises for me

The unbecoming statements by Bunting and Roper do not surprise for one bit. I believe they are consistent with belief systems that have long existed deep inside the PNP.

Jamaica's social, economic and political needs cannot be advanced by the divisive and the antediluvian politics of Phillips, Bunting, Roper and the PNP.

These sentiments are instructive: “ 'We don't grudge nobody for weh dem have! Jah-Jah prefer our sacrifice all the time. Dutty mind can't hold we again!' Holness said, as bells rang out on Sherlock Crescent, Monday evening.

“ 'When I hear certain kinda talk, I realise that they not only out of sync with what is happening within the society, but dem have a bad mind. Dem have a dirty mind. Because, firstly, dem start to grudge you fi house and now dem a grudge yuh fi education!' Holness charged. He said those kinds of people must never have power in the country.” ( The Gleaner, March 7, 2018)

Nelson Mandela famously said: “Education is the great engine of personal development. It's through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”

And American educational reformer Horace Mann said, “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equaliser of the conditions of men.”

Bunting and Roper know these things. Happily, we do too, and there are more of us than them.

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com .

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