Sun | May 28, 2017

Resurrection for Hay-Webster?

Published:Wednesday | April 22, 2015 | 4:00 AM
Desmond McKenzie comforts defeated Eastern St Catherine candidate Sharon Hay-Webster at JLP headquarters on December 29, 2011.
Sharon Hay-Webster, MP-turned-political aide.
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There has, for a while, been talk in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) that Sharon Hay-Webster is not content to be merely the aide of leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Andrew Holness. After all, since the rug was dragged from under her by the People's National Party, Hay-Webster has been little more than Mr Holness' handbag - firing off press releases, jostling with photographers to snap the leader, and powdering his nose.

An active, articulate former member of parliament for South Central St Catherine before the constituency was reconfigured in the lead-up to the December 2011 general election, Sharon Hay-Webster has long signalled that she has never been content to sit on the political sidelines.

It is not her fierce ambitions, but rather her strategy to get what she wants, that cannot be ignored.

It is just as inescapable that some Labourites are of the view that Hay-Webster's foray into Gregory Mair's constituency, North East St Catherine, is a sign of the vindictiveness, perhaps from a hidden hand, that has plagued the JLP in recent years.

 

interest signalled

 

As she did in 1996 when she was a diehard Comrade, Hay-Webster has signalled that she has an interest in the North East St Catherine seat and has no qualms about challenging a sitting MP.

While it is true that theoretically, any member of the JLP is qualified to vie to represent the party, Hay-Webster's recent push is emblematic of a modus operandi we've seen before.

It is a fact that Mair, a backer of Audley Shaw in his failed bid to wrest control of the party from Holness, is not supportive of the current leader.

Unsurprisingly, the ambition of Hay-Webster, without a seat since her inglorious departure from the PNP in the midst of the dual-citizenship controversy, appears to be bubbling.

It was Hay-Webster who served in the aftermath of the departure of then MP for South Central St Catherine, Heather Robinson, in 1996.

Hay-Webster's third term in Parliament was marred by a controversy over her citizenship to the United States, leading to her announcing in 2009 that she would renounce her US citizenship, which would have rendered illegal her membership in the House of Representatives.

However, in 2011, it came to light through the WikiLeaks exposÈ that she had withdrawn her application for renunciation, meaning she remained a US citizen.

As the furore reached explosive levels, Hay-Webster resigned from the PNP, and her former party called for her to step down from her parliamentary seat as well.

Hay-Webster joined the JLP in November 2011 before losing her seat in Parliament in the December polls.

Soon after her election as MP in 1993, Robinson telegraphed to the world that she was not willing to countenance or support political functionary and notorious gangster, Donovan 'Bulbie' Bennett, now deceased, in the constituency she represented.

It was afterwards that Bennett's notoriety would have been unveiled by the police as his Clansman gang led a reign of terror with Spanish Town as the epicentre. Bulbie was killed by the police in the early 2000s in Clarendon.

But as Robinson wrestled with Bulbie and a political system that embraced criminality, Hay-Webster, who was working with then Health Minister Dr Peter Phillips, went into the embattled constituency to assist with 'political organisation'.

Robinson eventually walked away from representational politics, but unlike Hay-Webster, remained loyal to the PNP.

Hay-Webster's efforts in South Central St Catherine in 1996 appeared innocuous initially.

 

political might

 

After Robinson quit, however, it was not any of a number of aspirants, including then Councillor Owen Stephenson, who earned the right to represent the party in the December 1997 general election, but Hay-Webster.

In subsequent years to 1997, Hay-Webster had to muster all her political might to stave off vigorous attempts by other ambitious Comrades to snatch the seat from her.

It was not until the dual citizenship saga surfaced that Hay-Webster was forced to relinquish the South Central St Catherine seat.

The second-generation politician defected from the PNP, the party of her forebears, and joined the JLP, where she appears to have fit in quite well.

Fast-forward to portentous 2015 as the parties prepare for national election. There are clear signs that Hay-Webster is again making her move on what many JLP supporters describe as fertile political ground.

Many in the constituency are complaining that with poor infrastructure such as roads, it's anyone's guess who will take the North East St Catherine seat, even as yet another former MP, Comrade Phyllis Mitchell, awaits her challenger.

- Gary Spaulding is a political affairs reporter. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com.