Heat on Wright over beating video
Under-fire Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) legislator George Wright could face the police as early as today as his party considers denouncing him and as public pressure mounts for him resign from Gordon House.
Investigators confirmed on Monday that Wright was a “person of interest” in the probe of a video-recorded fight in which a man was seen brutally assaulting a woman in Hanover on April 6.
Acting crime officer for the parish, Detective Inspector Carl Brown, said that a lawyer, purportedly representing the first-time lawmaker, contacted the police saying Wright would come in for a visit today or Wednesday.
That development followed a statement from the ruling JLP, which urged the Westmoreland Central representative to “immediately make himself available” to the police.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has not spoken officially on the matter, though the party statement said its call was on the leader’s instruction.
“If there’s confirmation that the party member and MP conducted himself as is being alleged, the consequences will be swift … . There’s no place in the JLP for any individual who abuses or attacks anyone, in particular women,” added the statement, quoting Dr Horace Chang, the party’s general secretary, who is also the national security minister.
Claims he was attacked
The Hanover police said Wright, claiming he was attacked, made a report on April 6 at the Ramble Police Station, apparently following one filed by the woman with the Anchovy police nearby in St James.
The authorities have been unable to locate the two persons so far, leading the senior crime officer for the parish to label the lawmaker “elusive”.
“The male figure in the video is, in fact, Central Westmoreland Member of Parliament George Wright and the female in question told the police that she is involved in a relationship with him,” Brown said.
However, in a Radio Jamaica interview late Monday, the confidence dimmed as the cop said there was no “evidence” to support claims the person in the view was Wright although the information gathered so far pointed to the MP.
In his Gleaner interview, the cop explained that in his complaint, Wright said he saw the woman along the roadway in Chester Castle, Hanover, and approached her, after which an argument developed and “he was basically attacked by her”.
In the almost seven-minute video, the man exited a white vehicle and had a conversation with a woman who was standing nearby.
After a few seconds, the woman was apparently collared, slapped, and then dragged to the side of a black vehicle parked in front of the white one.
There, the man continued to hit the woman, repeatedly.
During the mêlée, the man in the video picked up what appeared to be a stool and used it to hit the woman triggering another struggle before they left in their respective vehicles.
Calls to Wright’s phone on Monday went unanswered.
With the police confirmation, Wright’s tenure in the nation’s Parliament should end, argued Judith Wedderburn, an independent gender and development advocate.
“The Government needs to take action, not just talk. Take action and demonstrate that it is, in fact, committed to defending women’s rights for a safe community, for a safe space while the police do their work,” she said.
The advocate argued that strong action was important now as the Parliament deliberates on a proposed sexual harassment law and ponders recommendations to strengthen legislation to protect women and girls.
The Opposition People’s National Party has also called for Wright’s resignation.
“The example that George Wright has set is inconsistent with him holding this high office,” argued Senator Donna Scott-Mottley, spokesperson on justice and gender affairs.
“It flies in the face of the national outcry against violence against women that is now pervasive. The police should proceed without fear or favour to ensure that the law takes its course and justice is served.”
House Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert would not go that far, but was similarly condemnatory of allegations of abuse against the businessman.
“If it is true that a member of parliament has been identified as somebody in any sort of violent act against a female, it cannot be right and it cannot be condoned,” she said.
“We have to lead by example.”
Wright was elected to the House of Representatives in the September 2020 elections, which saw a record number of women, 18, earning their place in the 63-seat House of Representatives.
It’s an achievement the Holness administration has celebrated and which is now partly driving calls for decisive action from the Government.
Jamaica does not have impeachment legislation nor do citizens have the power of recall and MPs can only be forced to leave their seats under strict circumstances pursuant to Section 41 of the Constitution.
Some of the reasons for removal under the section include becoming bankrupt, convicted of a crime for six months or more, certified insane, confirmed a “criminal lunatic”, or missing certain number of House sittings.
When The Gleaner visited the section of the Chester Castle community, where the incident allegedly took place, residents, including persons who said they were JLP supporters, were livid as they heaped condemnation on the beating of the woman.
“I grieve so till when mi see di boy a beat up di woman,” said Gary Thomas, a resident of Chester Castle, who claimed he saw what happened.
“Him need fi resign,” said a woman, who declared herself a JLP supporter.
“Mi a straight Labourite … . Look how di boy a beat de woman ... all inna har face wid him fist and wid di stool. If mi and di woman was nutten, it couldn’t go suh.”
On a visit to Wright’s home in Shrewsbury district, Westmoreland, after midday Monday, in the hope of speaking to him, he was nowhere to be found.
However, dozens of his supporters were seen milling around his home, expressing disappointment about the Chester Castle incident.
“If me and she was sister, or she was my daughter, it would not end up like that, I swear to God, it could not go suh,” said a woman, who gave her name only as Millicent.
The recent killings of 20-year-old Khanice Jackson and teacher Nattalie Dawkins have reignited public clamour for tougher penalties to deal with perpetrators.
Gender-based violence is widespread in Jamaica and processes to reform laws have been slow.
More than one in every four women in Jamaica has experienced intimate partner physical and sexual violence in their lifetime, while one in four has experienced physical violence alone at the hands of a male partner, revealed a government study released in 2018.