Vaz, Hamilton undermine women’s rights, says gender advocate
Chang says show of support from female MPs not an indication Wright will return to JLP
A move by two government lawmakers to sit with independent legislator George Wright while he made a presentation in Parliament last week is not an indication that the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has softened its position on his banishment...
A move by two government lawmakers to sit with independent legislator George Wright while he made a presentation in Parliament last week is not an indication that the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has softened its position on his banishment, a senior JLP official has disclosed.
But according to Bishop Oneil Russell, spiritual adviser and close confidant of Wright, the Westmoreland Central member of parliament (MP) plans to shortly reapply for membership in the JLP and expects to be reunited with his former colleagues.
Wright, a first-term lawmaker, became embroiled in a firestorm in April last year after a video surfaced of a man brutally beating a woman, first with his fists and later, with a stool.
On the day of the April 6, 2021 incident, both Wright and his partner, Taneisha Singh, filed reports of assault at different police stations. However, both cases were closed after the two opted not to cooperate with the police.
Neither Wright nor Singh have confirmed or denied being the individuals in the video, and investigators could not ascertain the identity of the persons because of the poor quality of the recording.
But public outcry against Wright led him to resign from the JLP nearly two months after the incident, and instead remained in Parliament as an independent member.
He was relegated to the Opposition side in Gordon House, isolated from the People’s National Party parliamentarians.
But last Tuesday, Portland Eastern MP Ann-Marie Vaz and Trelawny Northern MP Tova Hamilton raised eyebrows and drew the ire of critics when they ‘crossed the floor’ of Parliament to sit with Wright during his contribution to the State of the Constituency Debate.
‘VERY HUMBLE PERSON’
JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang described Wright as a “very nice guy” and a “very humble person”, but said the actions of the JLP female legislators should not be seen as a “signal of any dramatic change at this point in time”.
“He got himself in a pretty nasty rap and the party has to take steps to distance itself from that kind of activity, which we did and maintain,’’ Chang, who is also deputy prime minister and minister of national security, told The Sunday Gleaner on Thursday.
“It was an egregious incident and we can’t just jump on it like that because he is a nice person. He has had significant punishment. There is sympathy for him by members of the party,” he added, offering a possible explanation for the actions of Vaz and Hamilton, another first-time MP.
Gender advocate Judith Wedderburn is among those who were “very disappointed” by the actions of the two female lawmakers.
“They as women, as far as I’m concerned, undermined the rights of all women, in particular that woman in the video, by going to sit with the male member of parliament,” Wedderburn told The Sunday Gleaner on Friday.
“It really let down female leaders in the Parliament. They allow the party line to take preference, not a national position that would support women,” Wedderburn added, making it clear that her views would be the same if members of the Opposition took a similar course of action.
Vaz appeared to address the issue by invoking a phrase by American civil rights icon Dr Martin Luther King Jr that was posted on her Twitter account.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” one of her messages read.
She followed that with a phrase by American movie producer Tyler Perry: “It is not an easy journey to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place because it frees you.”
Attempts to contact Hamilton were unsuccessful.
‘VERY NICE GESTURE’
But for Russell, pastor of Ark of the Covenant Holy Trinity Church, in Savanna-la-Mar, the move by Vaz and Hamilton to sit with their former colleague was a “very nice gesture”.
“It goes to show that everybody deserves forgiveness. Everybody deserves a second chance,” he said, asserting that more government MPs should have joined Vaz and Hamilton.
Russell, who acknowledged that he is a JLP supporter, described what he saw in the widely circulated footage as a “brutal beatdown” and made it clear that he does not support or condone domestic violence.
He noted, however, that there was nothing to confirm the identities of the persons in the video and that Wright was never charged for any crime in relation to the incident.
“Therefore, he has the right to apply back to the JLP and they must accept him,” he argued.
“He is just remaining as he is for now. But within the short term, he will make his application [to rejoin the JLP]. Before the general election should come around, I believe that he will be running on the JLP ticket,” said Russell, who also indicated that he speaks to Wright “every single day”.
But according to Chang, the JLP has not given any thought to Wright rejoining its ranks.
“I gather there has been some counselling and guidance. If he applies, we will have to look at the total picture, look at the current situation, especially as it relates to abuse of women in the workplace,” said the JLP general secretary.
Wright and Singh are set to tie the knot, but a date has not yet been set for the nuptials, Russell said.
Efforts to contact Wright were unsuccessful.