LISA HOPS OFF
Critics say writing on the wall as four-term MP Hanna steps away from politics
St Ann South Eastern Member of Parliament (MP) Lisa Hanna had become a lightning rod for disgruntled party supporters, forcing her to announce a premature departure from representational politics, a senior member of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) said on Tuesday.
Hanna, who has served as the parliamentary representative since 2007 for the waning PNP bastion, sent shockwaves throughout the country and within the party on Tuesday after announcing that this would be her last term in office.
“There are serious problems in the constituency and she didn’t feel she was getting the support there,” the senior PNP insider told The Gleaner on condition of anonymity.
He said Hanna’s departure has delivered a gut punch to the PNP hierarchy and is expected to further cripple efforts towards unity within the fractious party, still scarred by the trauma of several leadership challenges.
“It’s a major, major blow to the party and any attempts towards unity, but there are too many challenges in her constituency,” said the source.
Hanna’s grip on the constituency began slipping in 2016 following a fallout with several PNP councillors in the constituency.
The reported grudge dealt a debilitating blow to the former Miss World’s re-election bid two years ago after she retained the seat by a 31-vote margin, polling 5,150 to the 5,119 garnered by Jamaica Labour Party newcomer Delroy Granston.
“It has not always been easy; the political baptisms of fire were often unrelenting and excruciating. I have many times stood alone on principle, which was perceived as unreasonable and misunderstood,” Hanna wrote in a letter to PNP President Mark Golding which signalled her intent.
“But on the whole, the collective experience has bolstered my character, sharpened my fighting skills, and prepared me well for the next chapter of my life’s journey.”
Hanna, who once called Jamaican politics “bloodsport”, said that she had always been a champion of change and had the courage to do what was right even when it was not expedient or self-serving.
She said that her departure serves “to pave new roads for the generation coming”.
In the same breath, she said for the PNP to survive and be relevant to successive global environments and markets, it must be responsive and change with the times, seeking modern approaches to getting things done.
“This does not mean changing our core principles, mission, or value proposition, but rather, embracing modern communication, applying our principles to 21st-century challenges, empowering the next generation, and, most importantly, attracting and retaining the right talents to get the job done,” said Hanna who, in November 2020, was defeated by Golding in an internal leadership election.
On Tuesday, Golding expressed appreciation to Hanna “for her willingness to continue serving as the party’s spokesperson for foreign affairs and foreign trade, and for her continued commitment to the party and Jamaica”.
PNP councillor for the Beecher Town division and one-time Hanna confidant, Ian Bell, said that it was the right decision for the embattled MP to leave office.
Beecher, who quit the constituency executive in June 2021, cited “long-standing issues” between himself and Hanna at that time.
“We now have the time to begin to rebuild and to get it back to its original shape and form. The constituency has lost a lot in the period of time in which she began to lose traction.
“In her first two terms, it wasn’t bad, but after the 2016 local government elections, the writing was on the wall that she was in the departure lounge. There were certain things that the constituency would have accused her of and it was played out in the polls in September 2020,” said Bell.
He said that Hanna would not be able to secure the constituency for the PNP in the next general election.
Meanwhile, Maxine Henry-Wilson, chairman of the PNP Unity Committee, said that representational politics was demanding.
“I don’t know what reasons there are, but right now she shared her resignation letter and I think we [should] look at the points she has made and appreciate them and see whether, in fact, they are true and that that is the point of reflection,” she said.
Of concerns about unity within the party and further fallout stemming from Hanna’s announcement, Henry-Wilson said extensive work has been done to “weld the party together” and that focus should not be distracted by personalities.
“I think there are enough people now in the PNP, many of whom may have been part of dissensions before, who recognise the importance of us keeping the party together.
“I don’t see anything that could really divide us to the extent of where we were. I think we have gone over that hump,” said Henry-Wilson.