George Wright controversy sparks political chess game

The declaration by Opposition Leader Mark Golding last Wednesday that the controversy surrounding Member of Parliament (MP) George Wright is highly politicised has been quietly welcomed by some members of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Speaking during the sitting of the House of Representatives Golding said: “This instance, because of the wider circumstances around the matter and they say it shouldn’t be politicised, but it has been highly politicised a person has been removed from the caucus of the governing party.

“The person has been removed from any positions they may hold within their party, so it is totally disingenuous and absolutely absurd to pretend that this is not a matter that’s highly politicised.”

On the weekend, JLP sources, who requested anonymity, argued that Golding’s statement shows that politics is as much behind the calls for Wright’s resignation as is the moral outrage over the video which shows a man violently abusing a woman.

“This has been the most honest thing to come out of the PNP [People’s National Party] since this video recording went viral,” declared a senior JLP member.

“A number of the organisations which are calling on Wright to resign, several of which I have never heard about, or which have been silent in the face of other moral issues, need to admit that they have taken a political position.

“They have decided to find him guilty without any proof because they believe his resignation would lead to a by-election that the PNP could win. The Government, led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, has made it clear that we are firm against gender violence but we also respect the process,” added the JLP member.

Before last year, the Westmoreland Central constituency, which was created in 1959, has been won by the PNP in every contested general election except 1980 when there was a big swing to the JLP. The JLP also won the seat in the 1983 General Election which the PNP did not contest.

For most knowledgeable Jamaican election watchers, once Westmoreland Central was declared for Wright over the PNP’s Dwayne Vaz in the September 3, 2020 General Election, it was obvious that the JLP would be elected to form the next Government, with an overwhelming majority.

Vaz had first been elected to represent the people of Westmoreland Central in December 2014 when he romped to victory with a more than 2,500-vote margin over the JLP’s Faye Reid-Jacobs in a by-election following the death of the then Member of Parliament Roger Clarke.

The PNP’s victory margin narrowed in the 2016 General Election, but Vaz did enough to beat then first-time parliamentary candidate Wright by just over 1,000 votes.

It was Wright’s turn to shine in 2020 as he polled 8,477 votes to defeat Vaz by 1,189 votes. That could be enough to see the JLP hold on to the seat if Wright resigns, forcing a by-election.

But neither party will be assured of victory as the JLP knows that its candidate won in 2020 with almost 400 fewer votes than he polled in his losing cause in 2016, while more than 2,700 people who voted for the PNP in 2016 stayed away from the 2020 poll.

The JLP well knows that Westmoreland Central has long been PNP country, and a strong candidate with a good message and financial backing could see Comrades return to the days when Clarke, in the 2011 election, polled 11,564 votes to beat Marlene Malahoo Forte by more than 3,000 votes, or the 2007 poll when Clarke’s 10,441 votes left Russell Hammond in his rear view with 8,633, despite the PNP losing that general election.

The JLP memories could also stretch back to 2002 when Dr Karl Blythe beat Trevor Brooks by almost 3,000 votes to take the seat for the PNP.

Wright is now on a leave of absence from Parliament until June 21, following the release of a video which shows a man beating a woman with his fist and a stool.

He has neither confirmed nor denied that he is the man in the video and the police have closed their investigation in the case as there is no complainant, and investigators were unable to properly identify the two people seen in the video.

But, despite the statement from the police, more than 30 professional and advocacy groups have called on the first-time MP to resign, while the JLP instructed him to leave the party’s parliamentary caucus and sit in the House as an independent member. He has also been stripped of all party functions but, importantly, not expelled.

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