Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Perhaps the old Negro spiritual refrain I Shall Not Be Moved best sums up the attitude of Lisa Hanna to mountains of criticisms and personal attacks that have followed her into representational politics.
Responding to queries at a Gleaner Editors' Forum held last Friday at the newspaper's Kingston offices, Hanna, the youth and culture minister, said she was neither surprised by nor unaccustomed to criticism.
According to Hanna, the Internet, especially with the rise of social media, has provided everyone with opportunities to communicate faster and with more persons than was possible two decades ago.
"Every career has criticisms. The difference with my career is that it is just played out in the media, and now, social media. Twenty-five years ago, when I used to host Rappin' and when I became Miss World, there were the same criticisms. It is just that you didn't have the avenues where it proliferated so quickly and in real time," she said.
"The difference now is that the Internet has become a digital theatre of war."
Just recently, a website, toptensworld.com, ranked Hanna fourth among the worst politicians on the planet.
The website claims that "the minister of youth has not fulfilled her directive of protecting the youth of the nation, and after one year in Government has lost the confidence of not only a majority of the youth-supporting groups, but also civil society".
But Hanna has dismissed the suggestion, noting that the source used by the website subsequently recanted the statement, and has indicated her progress will not be derailed by such charges.
"Anybody sitting down in their boxer shorts can do anything to anybody. The New York Times was pulled down recently. Why is anybody devoid of criticisms, or why is it that anybody feels they are above reproach of persons who want to get at you? This is certainly not the first time that I have been digitally criticised. It was done with my head superimposed on something else," she added.
Her reference was to an image which, some years ago, was circulated on social media after being distorted to give the impression she was engaged in a sexual act.
Hanna entered representational politics in 2007 after being parachuted into South East St Ann by People's National Party (PNP) President Portia Simpson Miller. She won the seat - considered the safest PNP area in rural Jamaica - by 2,697 votes in those elections, and retained it in 2011 by 4,245 votes, despite a realignment of constituency boundaries, which saw her losing one of her strongest voting blocks.
"I have always wanted to be a politician. Miss World was by chance. Most of the things that I have done throughout my life were to go in this direction," Hanna said.
She said being a Cabinet minister has been a challenging experience, but she enjoys serving the people of Jamaica.
"My mornings start at 3:30 and days end at 11 p.m. It is a seven-day workweek. You have to learn to balance your private life with your public life. I don't think I would change what I am doing now," said Hanna, who has been severely criticised by the parliamentary opposition, human-rights and youth groups for the handling of her ministerial portfolio.
ALWAYS BE NAYSAYERS
Hanna is convinced that notwithstanding her best efforts, there will always be naysayers, and she has vowed not to allow her detractors to stop her from doing her job.
"You have a number of young people; if I decide that this is something that is not necessary, then it throws everything into a loop because the same public that we impact are so apathetic and so cynical about so many different things that you have to show and demonstrate engagement, courage, and hope," she explained.
Hanna said, however, she was "absolutely" sensitive to some of the issues, adding that "if you lose that sensitivity, it pervades everything in your life".