Lisa Hanna finally Jumps from her Perilous PNP Patch in St Ann

It comes as no real surprise that Lisa Hanna – the 15 year PNP representative for South East St Ann – is planning to walk away from representational politics.

For one, Hanna had little chance of retaining her seat at the next general election given she scraped through the 2020 election by just 31 votes. In 2007 Hanna first won the seat with 66% of the vote.

What made Hanna’s time in South East St Ann even more untenable was that during her PNP leadership race (2020) against rival and eventual winner Mark Golding her own constituency members-block backed Golding.

So it wasn’t a matter if Hanna would leave her current constituency but a matter of just when. No way a person of Hanna’s profile would allow herself to face definite defeat at the next general election and have that stain on her political résumé.

What really confirmed it for me that  Hanna was on her way out was her virtual silence on the controversial move by Kamina Johnson-Smith (foreign minister) to run for commonwealth secretary general and the political fall out that has since ensued. A scandal has since blow up over the cost of the Johnson-Smith bid drawing sharp criticism from various quarters.

Hanna is the shadow minister for foreign affairs and I kept wondering why  are others from the PNP’s front bench (Julian Robinson & Donna Scott-Mottley) being so vocal over the scandal and not Lisa Hanna? Something was up.

The Kamina Johnson-Smith CG expenses scandal is probably the biggest controversy to hit the Andrew Holness-led JLP administration since 2021 and nothing from the opposition lead on the portfolio?

Great Expectations 

When Lisa Hanna entered frontline politics for the People’s National Party (PNP) there was excitement and buzz as expectations were raised that she would bring a freshness and vibrancy to the party. Many expected Lisa Hanna to be a certainty for future party leader.

During the Portia Simpson-led administration (2011-2016) Hanna was appointed minister for youth & culture. To me that posting was a fluffy position lacking any substance. 

The portfolios lacked cohesion and didn’t make sense. The portfolios of education and youth should be joined together and culture should be alongside media or even tourism.

I felt Hanna would have best suited at tourism, sport or education and due to her strong communication & PR skills she should have been considered for minister of information.

But the PNP were keeping the big portfolios for the senior figures in the party some of who by 2014 had lost touch with reality and there based on loyalties and not competencies. It was hard to find a PNP MP who was not a government minister of some sort. Hence a bloated cabinet.

In the aftermath of the PNPs shocking knife edge lost to the JLP at the 2016 general election, Hanna immediately said her party needed immediate “renewal”. She was right.

But Hanna’s comments incensed key PNP officials, some of whom were determined to (successfully) prevent her being elected to one of the four vice presidents of the party.

Expectations were heightened that Hanna was going to make a run to succeed Simpson-Miller as party leader but in the end Hanna fell in to line and supported the anointed one Peter Phillips in an uncontested election (Karl Blythe). 

To me Hanna missed her chance then. In 2016 the PNP needed the energy, youthfulness, populism and charisma of a Lisa Hanna to revitalise their flagging fortunes. Whatever criticism there is of her, Hanna knows how to connect with the younger voters.

Hanna’s reward for “supporting” Phillips in 2017 was opposition spokesperson for foreign affairs & foreign trade. Again a fluffy role which lacks the media profile to put the party across successfully to a doubting electorate. 

In Jamaica, the opposition portfolios of substance that will get you media coverage and quick-wins against the ruling government are finance, agriculture, health, education, environment and of course national security.

For the 2020 general election Hanna was given a senior election campaign role and it’s fair to say she did not cover herself in glory as she rarely spoke to the media. That PNP campaign was chaotic, flat and abysmal. Leader Phillips fell into the trap set by the Andrew Holness administration and got a trouncing. Although over 60% of the electorate stayed home.

Following Phillips’ resignation as party leader after that election defeat Hanna lost out to eventual winner Mark Golding to succeed Phillips.

Hanna displayed herself as a sore loser by not being present on the platform for the announcement of the final result; despite being there earlier in the day. Whatever her excuse it looked childish and lacked leadership.

And that juvenile response didn’t end there as Hanna was absent from parliament during new leader Golding’s early days and did not appear at the new leaders swearing-in ceremony held at the official residence of the governor general. 

Again, Hanna kept the foreign affairs portfolio under the Golding leadership which was just ridiculous.

But since she lost to Golding you could see at times that Hanna seemed disengaged from PNP politics in body and spirit.

 In parliament under the previous leaders Hanna sat directly behind Simpson-Miller and Phillips. But in the current parliament Hanna sits as far away as humanly possible from Golding that even the TV cameras there can hardly pick her up on screen.

Hanna has hardly been vocal in her portfolio when expected to, especially with the Johnson-Smith scandal. 

For key speeches from certain PNP parliamentarians from her side Hanna was missing. She rarely does tuff interviews which is not good for someone who wants the highest office and reportedly turned down interview requests from certain male journalists during her leadership challenge. 

(After interviewing Golding on his popular entertainment show OnStage host Winford Williams made an unsuccessful public plea for Hanna to join the show the following week.)

But I must say since 2016 Hanna delivers the best speeches in parliament of anyone in the lower house or upper house.

Hanna’s speeches are so brilliant, rivetting, conciliatory, idealistic and inspirational that they gain plaudits from both sides of the aisle in the lower house.

Bumps Along The Road

At times Hanna did not cover herself in glory.

As youth minister she drew criticism for the government’s attempt to muzzle certain civil society groups such as Jamaica for Justice who were critical of her stewardship of certain issues. She also drew criticism from the civil service union for the way Dahlia Harris was fired in 2015 from her senior post at the ministry of youth and culture. 

A 2017 report by The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) slammed Hanna and her PNP constituent councillors over nepotism and “unethical management” in the awarding of contracts. The OCG did refer their findings to the Director of Public Prosecution as well as the Financial Investigations Division of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service for possible further action.

DPP delivered a stinging rebuke and recommended prosecution against an employee in Hanna’s constituency office and against (possibly) Hanna’s then partner/now husband – Richard Lake – but not against Hanna. What ever happened to that case?

“OCG recommends that criminal investigations be pursued and a determination be made as it regards whether the actions of Mr. Richard Lake amounts to interference and/or gives rise to an obstruction. Mr. Richard Lake persuaded Mrs. Joan McDonald to make a false statement and to mislead the contractor General by making the false statement.”

If the OCG had published the report while Hanna was a government minister there would have been strong pressure for her to resign from the cabinet.

Then again the OCG has filed equally scathing reports against previous and current government ministers over alleged misuse of public funds and nothing happens. 

If Hanna had defeated Golding and was polling well against the government you can bet the JLP media machine would have flagged the OCGs report relentlessly to embarrass Hanna and pressure the DPP into action. 

National Political Asset or Liability?

Despite these marks against her, the PNP can ill afford to lose someone of Hanna’s star appeal. But remaining in South St Ann with such a slim majority and major tension was pointless and a way out by Hanna was inevitable. 

Maybe Hanna could have been parachuted into Peter Phillips’ seat given he stated from 2020 that he would retire from politics but is still there! Why?

Rightly or wrongly the PNP have developed a perception of not doing more to develop smartly the political careers of it younger promising  officials.. 

Something clearly went amiss in the development of Lisa Hanna’s political growth and that of colleagues Damion Crawford, Raymond Pryce, Krystal Tomlinson, Kari Douglas and Andre Haughton. 

As Hanna departs after 15 years as a MP I’d love her to disclose what were some of her proudest achievements as a MP, government minister and as opposition spokesperson for foreign affairs/trade. That’s how anyone can assess the effectiveness of Hanna’s stewardship as a parliamentarian.

I have heard Hanna speak proudly of the work she did to get UNESCO to add the John Crow Mountains to the World Heritage list.

I would say for someone of Lisa Hanna’s calibre and potential she has under achieved and that’s due to not being placed in positions that best suit her skills set and development on a national stage. Clearly her leadership of her constituency must be called in question.

But did Hanna push for more substantial portfolios under the 3 PNP leaders she served under? 

I found really found it strange that after losing to Golding that she settled back into the shadow foreign affairs role. 

What was the point Hanna (lower house) shadowing Johnson-Smith for 6 years when the latter was based in the upper house during all that time?

Is Hanna holding out for a safe PNP constituency for a comeback?

If Golding’s PNP performs dismally at the next local government election then the knives will be out for him to go and would make it easier for a Hanna to succeed.

Hanna has raised constantly via parliament and other platforms her frustrations to get government funding to improve a number of roads in her constituency.

Her perceived failure to get these road improvements completed has led to regular protests by her constituents. 

When news broke of Hanna’s intended departure from South East St Ann some constituents who spoke to the media were happy and blamed her for the lack of road improvements. 

But we  know in Jamaica when it comes to road improvements opposition MPs are at the back of the queue when it bids for such work ever since Public Works was disbanded 

The Lady and the Lake

So what next for Lisa?

For a few years now Hanna has carved out a career as a weekly columnist for the Sunday Observer and has written a few pieces for the British Guardian

Hanna’s Sunday column is interesting because it has given her the platform to reveal her views on a wide range of issues affecting Jamaica. A useful media platform for any elected parliamentarian seeking the highest office.

Hanna and Richard Lake are known to a take serious interest in the horse racing and logistics industries (Lyford Logistics Limited). 

The high profile businessman Lake has had a extensive career in real estate, construction, freight management, food, agriculture, hospitality and investment. The wider Lake family is the franchise owner of Popeye’s and Burger King outlets as part of Restaurant Associates Limited. 

For 3 decades Lake has owned Lakeland Farms which is a major player in the local racehorse breeding industry. 

So Hanna nuh short of money or other . But will Lake remain a key donor to the PNP?

Going before dem shoob her out.

Useful information

Hanna to miss Golding’s Swearing in ceremony – Flair November 2020

Cronyism claim – Lisa Hanna dodges charges but scolded for contract nepotism – Gleaner July 2020

OCG asks DPP to probe Lisa Hanna, St Ann councillors over contract awards – Gleaner November 2017

Hanna Calls for PNP Leadership Shakeup – Nationwide May 2016

Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains inscribed to UNESCO’s Prestigious World Heritage List – JIS 2015

Comrades divided in South East St Ann · Councillors desert Hanna’s constituency conference and mount protest – Gleaner July 2015

About africanherbsman1967

Fly Like an Eagle
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