Source: Jamaica Gleaner
Peter Bunting could be facing a rebellion in the traditional Comrade-leaning Bellefield division of the Manchester Central constituency, and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) appears keen on exploiting every bit.
Prime Minister and JLP Leader, Andrew Holness, upped the temperature on Saturday after leading a motorcade, or ‘drive-through’, in the division to boost support for this party’s candidate, Rhoda Crawford.
The extra push may have been triggered by frustration from some People’s National Party (PNP) supporters, including 76-year-old Valney Smith, who told The Gleaner that Bunting has not “looked to the hill” they say John Junor warned him to do over a decade ago.
The ‘hill’ is in reference to the rugged terrain that dominates Bellefied but which has been a PNP fortress in the constituency.
Junor, a former PNP MP, passed the baton to Bunting, who won in 2007. The businessman and former PNP general secretary will be seeking his third consecutive term as member of parliament and on September 3.
“Yuh si all di one name Bunting, a him mi nuh waah si come up here,” said a female resident of Ginger Hall who refused to give her name, saying she didn’t want any attention on her.
“A up yah mek Bunting win, and Bunting nuh come back up here,” she added, referring to the 2016 general election in which the businessman was helped over the line by the 1,051-vote margin he polled in the Bellefield division where Ginger Hall is located.
Speaking of the 2011 election, the woman said: “Me memba me a watch TV and Danville Walker did a win him, and a when dem yah box yah come in, him (Bunting) win.”
Besides the Ginger Hall main road that some residents said needs repairs, the lack of street lights and piped water were also listed as long-standing problems.
A construction worker, who only gave his name as Everton, said that he has seen evidence of Bunting’s work but that Ginger Hall residents needed to just see his face.
“A John Junor we haffi talk bout. Him was the man and the greatest man. Fi him name can never stop talk bout,” he said, repeating the familiar phrase from several residents of Junor’s urgings for Bunting to look to the hills.
Making it clear that he would be voting, Everton said that Bunting could be in for a surprise.
“Dem come with the broom and seh sweep out. A dem a go get sweep out! Me a straight Comrade, you know, bredda, but a di truth me a talk.
“Me nuh seh him cannot win, but a nuh me a mek that X for him, and nobody up a my yard can’t mek nuh X fi him,” said a farmer making his way over a hill with freshly cut bamboo on his shoulder.
Patrick Young, with just-picked pears in hand, said that he has been living in the community for 46 years and knew only two JLP-supporting households.
“The road need fi fix. Him need to drop in some street lights, give wi water. A since election come in the councillor put in some lights,” said Young, pointing to one of the new fixtures.
“This man only come a Bellefield, Davyton, Banana Ground, Freetown, and turn back down. Him don’t come up here.”
He continued: “Mi frighten me go down the road the other day and me see the Labourite dem come up here, and it looks like the lady (Crawford) a go have a chance because everybody come out inna green.”
Some of the criticisms have been dismissed by other residents, including Sanzea Styles, who insisted that Bunting has been “a good MP”.
“I don’t have a problem with Peter Bunting because he works. Some people like things in their hands. Some get, and when they get, they don’t talk, and some want to get, get, every day,” said Styles, who said her alias was ‘Mumma Killa’.
“Him build up basic school at Banana Ground. Bellefield Primary School had pit toilet, now they have flush toilet ... . Hopefully, we’ll soon get running water because he promised us.”
Another self-styled Comrade who didn’t want to be named accused the complaining residents of being impatient and uncooperative.
“Water is hard to get up here because of the terrain, and they know that,” she said. “Bunting tries very hard. He’s not perfect, but I will stick with him.”
Reacting, Bunting told The Gleaner that Ginger Hall is a “small community far removed from any water source, and at thousands of feet elevation. It would take hundreds of millions to provide National Water Commission infrastructure for potable water to this community and the rest of the Bellefield division.
“This is obviously way beyond the resources available to an MP.”
Bunting accused Labourite candidates of trotting out the same rhetoric despite their party forming the ruling administration for nine of the last 13 years.
“Why haven’t they provided the funds to the National Water Commission?” asked Bunting.
The three-term MP said that Ginger Hall has also benefited through the construction of a new classroom block at the Zion Hill Primary School.
And he said the communities have tapped into rehabilitated water-supply schemes, including a catchment tank in Bombay, which was seen by this newspaper.
A water shop was also installed in Bellefield to provide free water to residents travelling through the town square, Bombay, and other areas, said the self-styled ‘Performance Boss’.
The Bellefield division has been the key defence for the PNP against JLP inroads in Manchester Central over the years.
In the 2016 election, Bunting won the division by 1,051 votes after barely holding off the JLP’s St Aubyn Bartlett in the Knockpatrick, Royal Flat, and Mandeville divisions.
Bunting ended up winning the seat by 1,172 votes.
Although JLP insiders say the party has not thrown its machinery behind Crawford as it did in the last three polls, they believe that Holness’ visit could only enhance the candidate’s appeal.
A successful businessman, Bunting is highly rated in political circles for his organisational skills, which saw him eke out dramatic electoral wins and the near-toppling of PNP President Dr Peter Phillips in last year’s leadership contest.
Bunting’s most comfortable win in Manchester came in the last poll - his largest majority. In 2007, he survived Sally Porteous by 115 votes and held off Danville Walker in 2011 by 539 votes.
The only division Bunting won in 2011 was Bellefield, which he did by 963 votes.
In 2016, he won all except Royal Flat, which he lost by 19 votes.
He won the prized Mandeville division for the first time in the last poll by 117 votes.
Despite the relatively close elections, the PNP has held the Manchester Central seat in every election since it was first contested in 1967, except in 1980 and 1983.
Holness toured central Jamaica over the weekend, visiting sections of Clarendon, Manchester, and St Elizabeth.
The restrictions on the election campaign because of the coronavirus did little to keep away dozens of supporters from lining streetsides and forming motorcades, which are banned.
As a result, there was little social distancing although there appeared to be greater adherence to the wearing of masks.
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