Is the playing field level for Hanna in the PNP?Thursday, September 16, 2021
On Saturday, February 20, 2006 Portia Simpson Miller was elected president of the People's National Party (PNP) in a historic election. This made her the first woman to lead a major political party in Jamaica. A month later she was sworn in as the seventh prime minister of Jamaica, another historic first. Weeks later she was invested with the Order of the Nation, an honour reserved for prime ministers and which bestows the title of most honourable on the recipient.
In her address at the function she declared, “The glass ceiling has been shattered.” But was it?
Subsequent political developments in Jamaica are revealing the inglorious underbelly of Jamaica's politics. It is still a man's world; the glass ceiling is intact and the playing field is not level. No amount of 'donkey rolling' is likely to change this reality any time soon.
There are many cases which attest to this situation, despite the best efforts of the Jamaica Women's Political Caucus (JWPC) and individuals such as The University of the West Indies lecturer Dr Hermione McKenzie.
Many female politicians are still suffering indignities. Rhoda Moy Crawford, Member of Parliament (MP) for Manchester Central, was set upon by a duo of male PNP incoming vice-presidents, only to be slapped down by the PNP Women's Movement. Essentially, the PNP women advised them to attack her work, not her. It forced an apology, even if one swam in his own arrogance before the contrition.
Speaker of the House Marissa Dalrymple-Philibert was ordered to Runaway Bay Police Station for littering, which is a ticketable offence attracting a fine of about $50. The police would never have done this to any senior male politician in Jamaica.
But, perhaps, the worst treatment of all has been reserved for Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna, who has been under constant mortar fire for over five years. No one within or outside of the party has been able to catalogue in clear and precise terms any charges or indictments to be proffered against her. Instead, it seems to be steeped in innuendos, unfairness, and good old Jamaican 'bad mind'.
As was the case with the popular Portia Simpson Miller, many in the PNP appear to want to shoot down a woman who remains the most popular personality in a party searching to find relatable people to boost its image in the eyes of the masses.
The latest recruit in the firing squad is Councillor Ian “Trumpet” Bell. He gave the most ringing endorsement of Lisa Hanna for the presidency of the PNP, two months short of a year ago:
“Everyone asks why Lisa, I ask why not Lisa?” he said, then, before reciting a litany of the significant contributions of Hanna to the party and Government. He concluded, “If Lisa was good enough to do those things, she is good to be president of the party.”
Now, he is alleged to have promised to “thump” Hanna and seeks corroboration from Denzil “Wizzy” McDonald. The continued destabilisation of St Ann South Eastern, arguably the most reliable PNP seat in the country, and the public vilification and crucifixion of MP Hanna must cease. It is fundamental to, and inseparable from a united PNP under the leadership of Mark Jefferson Golding — a man without considerable leadership merit but who has been handed the mantle to lead the party.
Many male members of the party, including MPs Julian Robinson and Mikael Phillips, have had issues with councillors, but have never been set upon by the party, its social media activists, and even opportunistic Labourites. This particular 'honour' seems to have been reserved exclusively for Hanna.
In July 2020 PNP Councillor Faith Sampson crossed the floor and joined the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) after polling and assessments showed she was unsalvageable. Mikael Phillips wished her well; end of story. There was no acrimony, no blame, and no vilification of him, and no using up of political energy to pursue political assassination.
Julian Robinson's councillor, Kari Douglas, from pedigree political vintage, resigned when she ran out of room to continue political foolishness. There was no attack on Julian. In fact, the party breathed a collective sigh of political relief and waved good riddance. She eventually joined the JLP, attended the “Juliet Holness School of Political Education”, and ran against Robinson in the 2020 General Election without experiencing any aggression from party members for her decision.
Other male MPs have had problems with councillors and, invariably, the MPs have prevailed with the support of the party and without the uncomplimentary barbs which Hanna has had to endure.
The PNP cannot continue to have two standards – one for men and one for women. Lisa Hanna endured a 10-year fight from two of her councillors without the necessary support and concomitant empathy for which the party is traditionally legendary.
Now word is that the party leadership has recalled those same councillors to contest the upcoming local government election, without the MPs' prior knowledge, and in a recognised constituency. Needless to say, such action is contrary to the party's constitution. I daresay that this would never be done to any of the established male leaders of the party. The real shame, though, is that, had she been treated equitably, the PNP may have been in a better place.
As it was with Simpson Miller, so it is with Hanna — attacked and vilified for seeking an office for which some claimed “she nuh ready”. The gender bias was starkly evident when those same people suggested that the other less politically experienced male candidate was “ready”. The noise of the internal PNP market spilled over into the JLP propaganda and eroded her standing among the population during the presidential election — a real injustice to any man or woman.
The JLP already has twice the number of women MPs as the PNP, even though women make up 80 per cent of the political workforce in the constituencies and other areas of the PNP political machinery. And, if you think the party is in an unfortunate position now, keep on abusing and embarrassing Lisa Hanna until she leaves the party and see what will happen.
Concerned Young Jamaican Women