KINGSTON, Jamaica – Former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has told members of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) that she will not be taking sides in the challenge for leadership within the organisation.
Simpson Miller, who stepped down as leader of the party in 2017, made the comment following posts of social media which suggested that she has thrown her support behind a particular candidate.
The pending leadership race will be between opposition leader Dr Peter Phillips and the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Central Manchester, Peter Bunting, an investment banker.
Last weekend Bunting – a former National Security Minister declared that he would challenge Phillips for the top job, a move that has been condemned by some party members and supporters.
However, Simpson Miller, in a statement issued on social media, has distanced herself from both camps.
“It has come to my attention that images of me are being circulated, giving the impression that I have taken sides in the upcoming PNP leadership race. I have not and will not take a side. I ask that my name and image are not used in the campaign,” Simpson Miller said.
The former Prime Minister has also called for a “clean and respectful” campaign, noting that the work of the party must continue when the contest ends.
“I encourage Comrades to campaign vigorously for their candidate, always mindful that after the internal contest we must continue our preparation for general elections. Keep the campaign clean and respectful. My first loyalty and duty will always be to the People’s National Party,” said Simpson Miller.
Meanwhile, Phillips has urged members of the party to focus on defeating the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
He made the plea on Wednesday on his social media page
“Your support to me throughout these last two years have been invaluable and my source of strength and inspiration,” the opposition leader said.
“Our movement was founded and rooted in the principles of democracy to give all Jamaicans an avenue to make their voices heard and an opportunity to serve at all levels. As we proceed to test our Party’s internal democratic pillars we must concentrate our efforts, energies and resources to defeating the JLP, not each other.”
Bunting, in his recent announcement, said he is running for the presidency to give the PNP a better chance at winning the next general election.
He said although Phillips has made an outstanding contribution to the party and the country in various positions in the past three decades, he has not been a transformational PNP president.
“Since becoming president, he has not implemented a single transformational initiative within the party and is just not seen as the right person for this time,” Bunting said in the statement announcing his candidacy.
Bunting’s leadership challenge is the first since 2008 when Phillips himself challenged Simpson Miller. He lost that election.
Prior to that Simpson Miller outlasted Phillips by 200 votes when both were among four candidates who sought to replace then party president P J Patterson.
A date for the upcoming contest for leadership is yet to be announced. (CMC)