Sat | Jan 18, 2020

Mark Wignall | Kari Douglas gave it away

Published:Sunday | November 17, 2019 | 12:14 AM
Kari Douglas

I happen to like Kari Douglas, PNP councillor for the Trafalgar division in South East St Andrew. First of all, she is a woman, so that gets her an automatic 10 bonus points. Second, she is intelligent and is proud of her Jamaican self. I also admire her feistiness, her tendency to fight unafraid even when she reaches the edge, and I respect her apologies when the edge pitches her over.

Last week, as she was at the tail end of apologising for her actions in an unfortunate incident which took place at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, she said that she was “not surprised by the statement from the PNP leadership, especially given that some senior members of what was the ‘One PNP’ campaign team actively agitated for publication of the initial story about the incident which contained several falsehoods”.

She added that not-so-subtle dig at the PNP, as it suggested that an early item on the party agenda was investigating her role in the hospital incident.

It is no secret that as the ruling JLP prepares for its 2019 conference later this month, the PNP is in a precarious electoral position. The immediate and short-term fixes that were needed under a seemingly rejuvenated Peter Phillips have not materialised. The healing and factional embraces that would have been a precursor for a fit and ready PNP going into the next election did not happen.

What are we to make of this?

As the JLP struts like a peacock to its annual conference with its tail feathers fully on display, the PNP is gingerly pecking around on the outside of the chicken coop, trembling and almost certain that it may end up in someone’s Saturday soup. Not much meat but it can still fill the bellies of the politically desperate.

I cannot quite figure out why a highly experienced, sensible, institutionalised man like Peter Phillips has not even feigned a publicly cosmetic embrace of those in the Bunting team who lost the leadership race. Recognising that the PNP is bigger than Phillips and Bunting put together, the onus was always going to be on the leader to heal the breach.

Surely, Phillips must have learned something from his close stay by the side of Portia Simpson Miller. If he did not, he must surely know that those in the PNP, not just those in his faction, are looking to him to build a winning coalition to meet the onslaught that will be the JLP steamroller as it hums and pushes forward from the planned November conference.

In mid last week, one member of the Rise United team told me that, “they have not embraced any of us. Since the first and only initial meeting with Bunting, that was it. Those on the Phillips’ team all know Phillips can’t beat Andrew so they honestly don’t have to engage us at all. They all are planning for the next presidential leadership race in 2020 after the general election.”


“Who are the ‘they’ you say are planning the next leadership race?” I asked him.

“Mark, seriously look at the front-runners. It is basically Phillip Paulwell, Lisa Hanna and Damion Crawford. Paulwell is in a bit of a logjam right now so there is a natural brake on him. No sensible, reliable PNP funder will want to enhance his political chances at this time and anytime after 2020. Plus, I can’t see the party pushing him forward,” he said.

“As for Lisa Hanna, we have to be pragmatic. No PNP supporter will ever vote for a former card-carrying member of the JLP to ever be leader. That is standard operational procedure and institutional understanding. As a former card-carrying member of the ‘other side’, you will attain all the big positions, but you will never be accepted as leader.”

“What about Crawford? Surely he can find back his footing and carry the whole youth wing of the PNP with him,” I suggested.

He chuckled. “Crawford is trying to get out of Portland before the second back-siding. By now he knows the competition and he also knows that it will only grow.”

“You paint a grim picture,” I said.

One of his colleagues told me he is not encouraged by the direction of the party and especially the leader, Dr Phillips.

“Phillips was in Dalley’s constituency last week speaking to Comrades and making promises that only the party controlling government could make. He spoke of the foreign exchange market and other things that were seemingly not immediately material to the Comrades’ needs. This is depressing and we can only watch it and try to protect our own seat exposure,” he stated.

“At some stage, the dead weight of the leader will begin to carry us down in our constituency. We don’t sense that it is happening now but these things can change when you least expect them to.”


Councillor Kari Douglas had to have been at close to breaking point when her eight-month-old son got ill over two weekends ago. She rushed to Bustamante Hospital for Children, the only medical institution in the parish opened at that ungodly hour when children get sick and drive their parents, especially mothers, close to madness.

It is a normal occurrence at the hospital when every mother wants first place in line at the under-resourced medical institution. First, there are only so many doctors, nurses, beds and IV units. I can understand why she snapped, but as a political representative, it was her duty to be better than the rest of us. We accept her apology.

In late 1973, my wife barged past hospital guards at that same Bustamante Hospital when my first son, Mark Jr, then a toddler, contracted gastroenteritis. It was two in the morning, as the guard and other parents who were there dutifully waiting cussed my wife.

Being a brown-skinned woman didn’t help. “Hey red gal, yu ting sey yu beta dan any body else!”

The fact is, my wife broke the protocols and refused to wait. To complicate the matter, the doctors and nurses were at no stage insisting that she go back outside, sit and wait like all the others.

As I whispered in her ear and suggested that she go back outside, she said something that sounded awfully like, “If you touch me, I will knock you out.”

Our public institutions, especially like Bustamante Hospital, will never have enough to meet the needs of the Corporate Area and of the children living within the Kingston Metropolitan area.

Whether it is for children born with heart complications or those needing immediate assistance for dengue, respiratory tract infections or gastroenteritis, at all times tempers will be on the edge.

All the other medical institutions are overstressed and overworked and short of beds. Our people are patient on many matters but once our children are involved, we are prepared to throw out civility first and engage head on second.

Councillor Kari Douglas may not have believed that she is better than the next woman in the line but I accept her apology. Many mothers will sympathise with her because there are some things which involve children which only a mother can appreciate.

In 1973, I was prepared to wait because it was the right thing to do. Others were there before me. But I am a man and maybe that is how I am programmed. Women, it seems, are programmed for ‘warfare’ when it involves the health of their children.

So don’t expect that the mothers waiting outside the hospital doors at three in the morning will be taking any courses on civility soon. They want immediate attention or someone is going to be pushed aside. Violently.


- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to and