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JLP unleashes 'Operation Beautification'

PNP's Duncan, Ferguson, Clarke, Hylton facing a pretty little problem

A Sunday Observer news analysis

Sunday, November 20, 2011    

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Some people see slim, cute in their eyes, petite women the way they see blondes -- with too high a sex appeal to have any sense, ie intellectual ability or to be taken seriously regardless of the topic and forum.

- Anthea McGibbon, journalist

THE Jamaican political landscape has never been so beautiful. Whether by accident or design -- no one is sure -- Andrew Holness's Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has unleashed four comely women on four People's National Party (PNP) men in tough constituencies the JLP will badly need to win.

But the women are not campaigning on the basis of physical beauty, as all four have outstanding academic credentials that demonstrate they have been endowed with both beauty and brains.

Dr Saphire Longmore, the 2000 Miss Jamaica Universe, wrested the Eastern St Andrew constituency from the embattled Dr St Aubyn Bartlett, and she will face off with the PNP's Andre Hylton.

Dr Patrece Charles-Freeman, taking up where her father Pearnel Charles left off in Eastern St Thomas, will do battle in the general election with Dr Fenton Ferguson.

Attorney-at-law Paula Kerr-Jarrett will take on PNP veteran Dr D K Duncan who won the Eastern Hanover seat by a mere 10 votes over the JLP's Barrington Gray in the 2007 general election, following a magisterial recount.

Attorney-at-law Marlene Malahoo-Forte will tussle with the old battle axe, Roger Clarke in Central Westmoreland.

But the PNP may well have started the beautification trend when Portia Simpson Miller installed Lisa Hanna, the 1993 Miss World, in the South Eastern St Ann constituency which she went on to win handsomely in 2007.

Hanna, also a woman of brains, holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in communications from the University of the West Indies (UWI). She could easily have been on a JLP ticket, but for the fact that she divorced the former rising JLP star, David Panton, with whom she was regularly seen on party platforms in the 2002 election campaign.

Longmore did not win at the international level, but sparkled as Miss Jamaica Universe in 2000. She is currently sporting the glow of pregnancy, and might be the first Jamaican woman to begin her candidacy as an expectant mom.

Longmore went to high school at Glenmuir in Clarendon and also pursued her three degrees -- the MBBS and the PhD in psychiatry at the UWI.

She started her bid for Eastern St Andrew with short-lived controversies. First, she had to wait out the contrasting claims that Dr Bartlett was out and then in, and finally out, after party internal polls showed him likely to lose to a PNP candidate.

Then Longmore was reported to have dual citizenship on account of being married to Belgian Alex Dropinski, a former European diplomat.

The Jamaican constitution forbids persons from running for Parliament if they have nationalities outside the British Commonwealth.

But Longmore quickly dispensed with that claim, explaining that while she is entitled to citizenship in three countries -- her husband also holds Canadian and Polish nationalities -- she has only Jamaican citizenship. She would have to apply for the others, which she has not done and did not intend to, she told the Sunday Observer.

Like her three political sisters, Longmore has on her resume outstanding contribution to charitable causes and speaks passionately of her encounters with suffering humanity through her psychiatry practice.

Unlike Longmore, Charles-Freeman had to renounce her US citizenship in August this year in order to enter representational politics in the constituency won and lost by her father, the minister of labour, who now holds the Southern Clarendon seat.

Long before she knew she would become a politician, she worked as director of health care for Food For the Poor and was famously photographed handing over $10 million in medical supplies to then Health Minister Horace Dalley in July 2007.

A Campionite, Charles-Freeman did her Bachelor's at the University of Miami; her first Master's in Public Health at Florida International University; a speciality in environmental health management at Johns Hopkins; a second Master's in counselling psychology at Northern Caribbean University and a PhD in public health at the UWI.

Dr Charles-Freeman is currently a public and environmental health-management consultant.

But it was in the rarified atmosphere of drugs and athletic cheats, as head of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCo), that Charles-Freeman came to prominence. Her most famous case was that of 100-metre sprinter Steve Mullings who tested positive for a banned substance and was forced to miss the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea this year.

Paula Kerr-Jarrett shares commonality with Charles-Freeman in that her parents, Christopher and Michelle Bovell, were high-level supporters of the JLP. Dad being the long-standing party treasurer. And Paula is married to well-known Montego Bay businessman and treasurer for the JLP Area Council Four, Mark Kerr-Jarrett.

Paula Kerr-Jarrett was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She started her early education at Immaculate Preparatory School, then attended Westonbirt Girls' School in Gloucester, England at age 13, later reading for law and politics at the University of London (SOAS). She continued her LLM degree at the University of London (UCL/LSE) and qualified as an attorney-at-law.

In 1990, she returned to Jamaica and to Montego Bay where her new family runs the well-known Barnett Estates.

Never pretending to have been a sufferer, Kerr-Jarrett spent much of her time contributing to numerous projects, including religious, charitable and educational causes over the past 20 years.

That, combined with the years watching mommy and daddy devoting their lives to political service apparently prepared her to take the plunge and to challenge the formidable Donald Keith Duncan, remembered most often as the powerful minister of mobilisation in the 1970s PNP administration of late Prime Minister Michael Manley.

To bolster her political antecedents, Kerr-Jarrett revealed in an interview with SO magazine that her great-grandmother, Marion Louise Reece Bovell, was the first woman in Jamaica to run in 1944 as an independent candidate in the general election.

But she admitted that support for her decision to go into politics was not automatic from her parents. "They are obviously protective, and my dad, in particular, has seen enough of politics to realise that it's rough and oftentimes unfair, very unforgiving and unappreciative," she said.

"(But) they realised that I was serious, and believed in the fact that change was possible, and that it began with each of us seeing ourselves as agents of change. I was doing what I felt was my part and adhering to the principles they instilled in me. They had to support me! They had no choice!"

In that same interview, Kerr-Jarrett addressed the question of physical beauty, saying: "The Bible reminds us that beauty is fleeting and that gold is perishable... and people can sometimes prove fickle. If you rely on these assets alone, life may end up a grave disappointment."

Bruce Golding set lawyer Marlene Malahoo-Forte on the political path by selecting her to replace the late Col Trevor MacMillan when he resigned from the Senate and his position as national security minister. She was sworn in the next day as minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, with specific responsibility for foreign trade.

Her biggest test in the job was perhaps quelling the restiveness among the Jamaican diaspora after allegations surfaced that she had changed without consultation some of the rules governing how some leadership representatives were chosen to the Diaspora Board.

Malahoo-Forte, a former resident magistrate who hails from Westmoreland, previously served as assistant director of public prosecutions and is a past president of the Association of Resident Magistrates as well as the Legal Officers' Staff Association. She was also chairperson of the Women's Leadership Initiative.

She was a lecturer in criminal practice and procedure at the Norman Manley Law School and has been named among the Top Five Women in Law; is on the list of Jamaica's 50 Most Powerful Women and has been honoured as a Jamaican Woman of Excellence.

As head of the Women's Leadership Initiative, a committee of United Way of Jamaica, she focused on education, health and rights advocacy for women and children. She is a Yale World Fellow and Edward S Mason Fellow of Harvard's John F Kennedy School of Government.

Malahoo-Forte is an alumnus of King's College London, Norman Manley Law School, the UWI and Manning's High School.

Immediately upon being named the JLP candidate for Central Westmoreland, she signalled to Roger Clarke, the highly regarded former minister of agriculture, that he now had a fight on his hands.

When Prime Minister Holness names the election date, four PNP men will find they have a pretty little problem on their hands.

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