Fri | Jan 18, 2019

It's a big, fat lie! 'Babsy' Grange fires back at Lisa Hanna

Published:Wednesday | April 5, 2017 | 7:19 PM
Grange ... It is unfair for false information to be given with protection of Parliament,

Jovan Johnson, Parliamentary Reporter

The Culture Minister Olivia Grange on Wednesday afternoon rose in Parliament accusing opposition MP Lisa Hanna of telling a "big, fat lie" yesterday when she suggested that $380 million for Jamaica's independence activities this year was "corruptly" used.

"Some serious accusations were made yesterday that have damaged some individuals," said Grange.

A day earlier, Hanna, to the apparent shock of Grange and other government members including Prime Minister Andrew Holness, alleged that there was a "culture of extravagance" at the Culture Ministry.

She alleged, among other things that only $65 million of some $440 million budgeted was sent to the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission set up to carry-out independence celebrations.

But in a statement to the Parliament this afternoon, Grange said that was not so and was among the reckless claims that Hanna has made.

The minister said the money has been programmed in the JCDC's budget and rejected the assertion that the organisation was being bypassed for personal assistants.

"I do not want to disrespect her," Grange said of Hanna, adding that she thought "differences" between the two in the past had been put to rest.

As Grange spoke, Government MPs who were silent yesterday, poked fun at Hanna, who was the culture minister from January 2012 to March 2016.

IN PHOTO: Lisa Hanna smiles as Grange speaks in parliament

Hanna, in the meantime smiled and took notes.

Grange also rejected the allegation that she employed as her senior adviser, the partner in a company (JAMBIZ) that involved an artistic director who Hanna claims pocketed $15 million for work on the 2016 grand gala that the JCDC could have done.

The minister said she did not select the unnamed consultant and neither does the individual work for her.

And Grange levelled claims of her own, too, saying Hanna employed an individual from the same company for the 2012 gala. 

The saga over the Jamaica 50 pins and missing equipment purchased under Hanna's leadership of the ministry were also resurrected.

There were claims too, that Hanna was "snooping around state agencies" and "badgering staff for information".

"In culture, we must never attempt create a divide. Some serious allegations were made that have damaged a number of individuals," the minister said.

IN PHOTO: Hanna takes notes as Grange speaks

As the opposition Spokesperson was about to respond, government members, including Clarendon Central representative Mike Henry, protested saying she should only be allowed to make an apology.

Parliamentary rules allow for the opposition to respond to a ministerial statement.

After the speaker Pearnel Charles reminded of that, Hanna rose saying Grange did not address her main concerns about nepotism.

She pointed to the $15 million contract that was allegedly given to the artistic director and was paid out before the work was done.

"I stand by what I say and I would urge the minister, rather than getting emotional and frantic to look at the evidence, " Hanna insisted.

IN PHOTO: Audley Shaw peers at a document presented to the PM by Lisa Hanna

The opposition Member would later hand over the so-called evidence to the Prime Minister.

Grange wanted to respond though, even as Holness shouted at her not to.

"At no time was this individual paid $15 million up front," Grange said before being cut short by the speaker.

Charles said he could not allow further interventions on the issue as it was going beyond a statement.

He suggested that Grange's Sectoral Debate presentation scheduled for next month be brought forward to allow her provide additional explanations.