Family first! - PNP mother, JLP daughter still tight despite being on other side of political divide
At no more than five-feet five-inches tall, 64-year-old, Norma Lindsay-Outar is staring at the political ‘Mount Everest’ she will have to climb for the People's National Party (PNP) in her quest to unseat the eight-term Member of Parliament Lester ‘Mike’ Henry in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) bastion of Clarendon, Central.
Norma will have many members of her family behind her in her bid to create a political earthquake but one key family member, who will not be in her camp, is her daughter Nadine Outar-Johnson who sees Henry as her political mentor.
In fact, Nadine will don the green of the JLP as she tries to become the councillor for the Milk River Division in the Clarendon South West constituency which is held by the PNP's Noel Arscott.
But despite being in opposing political camps, the mother and daughter say they are not divided and continue to enjoy a close bond.
“Politics may divide the country, but nothing divides us. We are mother and daughter. And family comes first,” said Norma.
“When the family gets together we talk about family. Nadine is of age. She is married and has a family of her own. But I would be happy if she made some changes to her politics,” added Norma, with a smile aimed at her daughter.
“I am the odd one out,” accepts Nadine.
“I was raised in a PNP house (but) I made a decision to step inside the ring for my two young sons and my grandchildren. I can only see a bright future for them under a JLP government,” added the 44-year-old businesswoman of May Pen.
Norma's work in Clarendon Central dates back to 1986 when she started a football team in the constituency, with representational politics farthest from her mind.
She said she was a ‘sacrificial lamb’ thrown in deep in the municipal elections of 2007 for the PNP in the Denbigh Division.
“I went in there with seven days notice because there was an issue with the selected representative. I polled 256 votes, and the councillor, who was there for 22 years, received just over 800 votes,” she recalled.
However, she does not see herself as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ this time around.
“I am not writing off my chances. It has to begin somewhere. And the JLP votes have been fluctuating over the last several elections. And the PNP support is not waning,” she explained.
Norma is campaigning house to house, in the constituency represented by the Henry who has not been beaten since his first victory in 1980.
She has neither Henry's formidable winning history, nor political savvy, but, brave, she is.
“I am glad that politics has reached the point where I can campaign in this constituency, because there was a time when the PNP couldn't,” said Norman.
According to the woman who wants to dethrone a champion, PNP president Portia Simpson Miller and general secretary Paul Burke, encouraged her to contest the seat, after seeing the work she has led to keep the party’s machinery operational in the JLP stronghold.
She serves as constituency secretary and is a member of the PNP's National Executive Council.
Norman is pinning her hopes of victory on the voters of Canaan Heights, Toll Gate and Havana Heights who she is praying will come out in their numbers.
Nadine's move towards the JLP came from a life-threatening encounter she had at the May Pen hospital in 2007 during the birth of her last child.
“I was in a life and death situation and the PNP was in power. Horace Dalley was minister of health and I know him well. I needed a drug and the hospital said it was not available. We tried to contact Dalley but couldn't.
“I contacted Mike Henry and after about 15 minutes the hospital staff were running up-and down around treating me like a celebrity. Within half-hour the drug was available, and I was able to do surgery. Mike Henry saved my life and my son's life. And I made up my mind then and there,” said Nadine.
According to Nadine, while she was not looking to get the drug free she could have died, after seeking help from the PNP for five days. Since that ordeal she has had a closer relationship with Henry, who has mentored her.
“Mike Henry says this is his last gallop and if, and when the opportunity arises, I will make myself available to take over the reins,” said Nadine opening up the mouth watering prospect of the country’s first ever mother daughter clash in a general election in Jamaica whenever the country returns to the polls after this go around.
“I do not believe Mr Henry will leave that constituency while he is still alive. I believe he loves politics and the constituency too much to leave,” quipped Nadine’s supportive husband Royburn (Wally) Johnson.
“I have the best of both worlds. I have a mother-in-law in the PNP and a wife in the JLP. It is easier for me because I am in a different constituency form her. But if the day should come and they are running against each other, I don’t know how I would manage,” added Johnson.
BOX: Norma Lindsay-Outar’s ‘Mount Everest’*
Year JLP PNP
1976 Mike Henry 4,661 O.D. Ramtallie 5545.
1980 Mike Henry 8,135 O.D. Ramtallie's 4660.
1983 Mike Henry No contest
1989 Mike Henry 6,768 Donna Scott-Bhoorasingh 6,286
1993 Mike Henry 6,777 Derrick E.S. Webb 5,151
1997 Mike Henry 7,546 Coy Grandison 4,800
2002 Mike Henry 6,276 Leopold A. Hylton 4121
2007 Mike Henry 6,944 Neil W. McGill 3,435
2011 Mike Henry 7,146 Richard Watson 4,121
* Figures obtained from the website of the Electoral Office of Jamaica