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This week’s featured development as Newsmaker of the Week just ended is the shocking announcement by Member of Parliament (MP) for South East St Ann, Lisa Hanna, that she will be leaving representational politics.
This means that Hanna will not be offering herself to represent the People’s National Party (PNP) in the constituency when the next general elections, constitutionally due by 2025, is called.
The news is still being described as a ‘political earthquake’, which rocked the island’s political landscape, leaving the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) severely wounded and hit by another round of allegations of internal disunity.
But Opposition Leader and PNP President, Mark Golding, has rubbished those assertions.
Golding, during a television interview last week, claimed that Hanna’s decision to step away from representational politics is not a sign of disunity in the party.
Further, he said the former beauty queen-turned-parliamentarian’s decision did not reflect on his leadership of the 84-year-old political organisation.
“The resignation has to do with Lisa’s own issues and where she wants to go with her life,” Golding insisted.
Golding also highlighted that the party has been building “real” unity, and members have all “committed ourselves to making it stronger”.
However, several political commentators remain unconvinced, though they have blamed Hanna for her own political downfall, citing controversy after controversy in her constituency, the most recent of which saw longstanding ally, Councillor Ian ‘Trumpet’ Bell, resigning from the constituency executive in June last year.
Bell, who is the PNP Councillor for the Beecher Town Division in the constituency, is reportedly not on speaking terms with Hanna, joining the two other PNP councillors – Lambert Weir of the Claremont Division and Lydia Richards of the Bensonton Division – who are also having no dealings with the MP.
Ian ‘Trumpet’ Bell (left) and Hanna.
Interestingly, Bell was one of only two PNP councillors in the constituency who supported Hanna since a 2015 failed attempt by Richards to oust her.
Similarly, Bell supported Hanna’s failed bid to become PNP president in November 2020. She lost to Golding.
Bell, in June last year, said he resigned from Hanna’s constituency executive because of issues relative to her management style.
Amid all the claims of poor leadership style and management in the PNP bastion of South East St Ann, Hanna was also criticised heavily for winning the party’s once super safe seat by a mere 31 votes in the 2020 General Elections in which the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) fielded three successive candidates on the campaign trail in the constituency.
With all the growing outrage over her stewardship in PNP circles, Hanna has signalled the end of her parliamentary tenure approximately three years before the next national polls.
“I have always been a champion of change and having the courage to do what’s right even when it’s not expedient or self-serving, as I believe courage has an obligation to pave new roads for the generation coming behind us,” said Hanna in a letter to Golding.
“As such, I have recently decided to conclude my current journey in representational politics at the end of this term,” added Hanna.
The Miss World 1993 winner won the seat in the 2007, 2011, 2016, and 2020 polls.
“I trust this early notice will give constituency delegates adequate time to go through a selection process to select a candidate of their choice, which is their constitutional right. I remain available to serve at your consideration in the Shadow Cabinet as Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade,” Hanna told Golding.
In noting that former PNP President, Portia Simpson Miller, courted her into representing South East St Ann, Hanna said the last 15 years have been “a quite satisfying” experience that has seen her occupying several roles in the party, including as regional chairman and treasurer.
Several political observers who have been analysing Hanna’s letter to Golding, suggested that the former Youth and Culture Minister was being critical of the present leadership of the party.
“We have always been the party with a heart, the people’s party that is in touch with the grassroots and committed to ensuring no Jamaican is left behind.
Professor Donna Hope
“So while the people of Jamaica, and people like myself, see her as one of the potential leaders and one of the better fit-for-leadership type, especially in the current era, the PNP apparently does not see it that way.
“And, I don’t think they see her the way they saw a Portia Simpson Miller’s ‘winnability’ for the party and, therefore, allowed Portia the opportunity to go ahead because they wanted Portia to provide them with the win,” Hope added.
Hope, however, congratulated Hanna for waiting until a lot of the discomfort and discord had died down from around the party’s massive defeat in the 2020 General Elections and in-fighting around leadership challenges, before making her announcement.
“She waited very carefully as a good communicator and as a person who understands marketing. She waited until things calmed down and had settled, and then she decided to move on from politics.”
The professor is adamant that the PNP is losing one of its trump cards, as Hanna is “well recognised internationally”.
Meanwhile, public and social commentator, Dennis Chung, said the people speculating about why Hanna has decided to walk should be reminded that it is difficult to be in politics and public life generally.
“I know it must be difficult for her because I just sit as the chairman at NSWMA (National Solid Waste Management Authority) and some of the things that you hear people say about us being at the trough and all of that, they don’t realise that it’s a personal sacrifice because it actually cost you more to be there, but these things are (in) service (to country),” he said.
Nevertheless, Chung argued that in looking at the letter Hanna wrote to Golding stating her decision to quit, “it’s obvious there was some discontent”.
“I don’t know if the discontent alone would’ve been enough to walk away from politics if she still had a passion for it, so it could suggest that, based on what’s happening, she’s really just tired and wants to leave it, or it could also mean that there’s some disagreement, which doesn’t necessarily have to mean that she has a problem with Golding as people are saying, but rather a problem with the direction of the policies and how the party is moving, which is a separate thing,” Chung reasoned.
He said he would not want to cast a shadow on Golding because of that.
“The best thing to do is really understand, from her point of view, but it certainly requires more understanding in terms of what happened,” he said.
According to Chung, “When you look at the current political landscape, the general feeling out there is that the Opposition is still trailing in the polls…
“I don’t want to cast any aspersions on what she has said or her intent, but certainly there is more to look at.
“In terms of what drove her there, it must have been some personal reason because you just don’t walk away from something that you love like that if you still feel the fire burning and you feel you can still do something about it.”
For his part, public commentator Kevin O’Brien Chang said: “Lisa Hanna is a mixed bag. She has her good side and her bad side”.
On the good side, O’Brien Chang said many women in Hanna’s privileged position would not bother to show the level of commitment to country that she has shown.
“She could easily be travelling the world, but she has, instead, devoted a lot of time and energy to her country and being in politics is not an easy thing. You have to give her credit for sticking with it for 15 years. She has tried to give back to her country though she could be living a Kim Kardashian lifestyle,” stated O’Brien Chang.
With Hanna’s departure, he suggested that “Every time we lose somebody prominent and intelligent enough, it’s a setback for the country.
“Every time we lose somebody who’s prominent and has the respect of the people, and the attention and the qualifications, the pool shrinks a bit.
“It’s a bit worrying that the pool may shrink one day to nothing, or the PNP might shrink to nothing,” he said.
On the negative side, O’Brien Chang said it is obvious that Hanna is not the best people person in the world, based on the numerous public spats she has had with her councillors over the years.
He also highlighted that took home the seat which she first won in 2007 with a majority of more than 2,700 votes, by just a 31-vote majority in the last elections.
In the context of the PNP, O’Brien Chang said the prospects for the party’s leadership look bleak.
Kevin O’Brien Chang
“If Golding loses the next elections and the people say, ‘Let us get fresh blood’, where’s that going to come from?” O’Brien Chang questioned.
He also slammed the PNP, which he said seemingly has a problem with women.
“It’s not a good thing for the country; the talent pool is shrinking, the PNP is shrinking. Hopefully, maybe she can reconsider and come back and use her obvious appeal to contribute more to nation building,” said O’Brien Chang.
The reactions to Hanna’s pending departure from her constituency was not glorious, with some persons calling for the four-term MP to leave immediately.
“She (Hanna) nah duh nothing. Road bad all ‘bout in the constituency and she a MP fi years. She fi leave now, now!” insisted one female constituent in an interview last week.
Added one male constituent: “Lisa shoulda guh like from the last election because the last elections, people dem never really turn out and vote and it’s like fi har fault. So fair enough, she shoulda guh from then.”
But not all the constituents shared those views. One man living in the constituency contacted a radio talk show and said Hanna did not benefit from the stewardship of previous PNP parliamentarians who failed to rectify issues such as road infrastructure.
“PNP always have South East St Ann, and when you look over the years, no improvement or maintenance was done on the roads by past PNP MPs, in my humble opinion,” he said.
“So, to me, Hanna is being dealt with unfairly. Every MP have people dem don’t see eye to eye with and, in my opinion, she do some good work in the constituency to help children with back-to-school, water issues and so forth,” the man suggested.
For Beecher Town Councillor, Ian Bell, the writing was on the wall for Hanna when he resigned from the constituency’s executive.
In a radio interview last week, Bell said he is of the view that Hanna will resign from the seat soon, paving the way for a by-election because “it would be in her mind that the seat might go away from the PNP to the Jamaica Labour Party”.
In any event, he asserted that Hanna’s eventual departure is good for the constituency, as persons from the area will finally have a representative who they can see on the ground “working with them and (who) they will work with”.
Bell, in dispelling social media suggestions, said he presently has no interest in being the next MP for South East St Ann.
Across social media platforms, there were various perspectives on the sudden announcement by Hanna that she would be stepping aside by the next general elections.
“A true leader knows their worth, they know when to quit and take their exit!
“They create the impact, leave their legacy and move on to continue to transform!
“Bless you Queen,” wrote evangelist Audrey Cole-Crosdale on Facebook.
Another Facebook user, Fitzroy Donaldson, wrote: “The PNP is now dead… start plan the nine night and funeral”.
Wayne Jones said of Hanna: “She wasn’t a true member all this time. She really thought this was a popularity contest”.
In response to that comment, Michael Edwards said: “Wayne Jones very sad day when a woman, a leader of class, walks away from dirty politics and you make such a pathetic comment.
“She (Hanna) has given more to the country than you and your negative comment,” asserted Edwards.
Another social media user, Eloise Wellington, had no sympathy or kind words for Hanna.
“She should have gone long time. This isn’t Miss World or Miss Universe! This is serious business, and people need representation. Not parading and road don’t fix for years,” Wellington stated.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding
Anita Russell also questioned the real reason for Hanna’s announcement.
“Lisa needs to come clean and tell us what prompted her to make this decision because she was on tour with the leader of Opposition and his team in (the) USA, so all of a sudden she just walking away? Not buying that,” Russell posted on Facebook.