Editorial | The George Wright calculus
George Wright’s resignation last week from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and how his decision was characterised by the party’s general secretary, Horace Chang, raise profound questions of leadership by the JLP. Unprompted, Dr Chang conceded to the radio host, Dionne Jackson-Miller, that the parliamentarian’s voluntary resignation “made it easier for us”. That is to say, he believes that the JLP was spared taking a difficult action.
While it is a thought that Dr Chang, and others in the leadership of the JLP, may well have harboured such an idea, you would hardly expect it to be publicly vocalised. For it sounds too much of an admission that, at least in this matter, the governing party operated without underlying philosophy and was too timid to do something decisive. Unless, given the contortions through which it has been willing to put itself, there is something in the JLP’s political calculus that is beyond the public’s immediate grasp.
The George Wright affair is not the usual political scuffle, so the he-said-she-said scrum. After a video emerged in April of a man severely battering a woman, there were multiple public claims that the male in the video was Mr Wright. That is the kind of accusation that tends to stir the ire of people who are falsely accused, causing them to fire off lawsuits for defamation against accusers and/or purveyors of the defamation.
Up to now, Mr Wright has made no statement that he has been defamed. Neither has he denied being the beater in the video, even to the JLP brass, including Dr Chang, when he was called in for an explanation. Nor has he confirmed that he is the man in the video. The police, however, confirmed that the day before the video went viral, Mr Wright and a woman, Tannisha Singh, separately filed complaints of assault, each against the other. The matter subsequently came to a dead end because neither Mr Wright nor Ms Singh would cooperate further with the police.
The JLP, however, in the face of public outrage over the association of Mr Wright’s name with violence against women (especially at a time when the issue is high on the national agenda), removed him from the party’s parliamentary caucus. It also announced that Mr Wright had been advised to take a leave of absence from the House to deal with his affairs – for which he applied and received. He has 13 days to go until the end of his paid two-month break.
In the meantime, the JLP promised Jamaicans that its internal organs would meet and decide early on Mr Wright’s future in the party and suggested that that outcome would be made known to the public in short order. Whether those deliberations took place, and what conclusions they arrived at, have not been announced. The public is left to speculate on what may, or may not, have happened. In the event, that process has been short-circuited by George Wright’s resignation from the party, thus rendering the JLP’s action moot. Or so it seems.
PERCEIVED AS INDECISIVE
Except that in this matter, the JLP’s leadership is perceived as indecisive and unsure of itself or intent on playing a kind of political long game, hoping that Jamaicans would soon tire of the affair and move on to the next controversy. The so-called nine-day wonder.
So although Mr Wright had the JLP whip removed from him, he remained a member of the party. Which raises the question: If Mr Wright’s behaviour made him unfit among his colleagues in the House, how then was he worthy of continued membership of the JLP until now? In the end, Mr Wright left of his own volition. Or has he really?
According to the JLP, Mr Wright, in his resignation letter, declared “his continued belief in the policies and programmes of the Government and party”. In the circumstances, Mr Wright, who is staying on as MP for Westmorland Central, is unlikely to oppose, or vote against anything on the Government’s agenda. And silence by him in the House will merely be the norm.
Further, no one expects Mr Wright to do anything in his constituency to undermine JLP support. The party can unhurriedly recruit new leadership for the constituency and install its standard-bearer for the next election, unworried about snarls from a George Wright flank. It will have only a weak Opposition People’s National Party constituency organisation with which to contend. In the meantime, if he hangs on until the end, Mr Wright will have on his résumé that he sat for at least a full term as a member of Parliament, by which time the controversy around him may have receded.
That, as political calculations go, may work for the people involved. We, however, would have preferred something more decisive – and, perhaps, moral from the JLP.