Sun | Aug 7, 2022

Wright walks free for now

Ruling JLP divided over embattled Westmoreland MP in beating probe

Published:Thursday | April 15, 2021 | 12:17 AMHopeton Bucknor and Jovan Johnson/Gleaner Writers
Able Don-Foote (left), attorney-at-law, reports to the  Montego Bay Police Station with his client, George Wright, member of parliament for Westmoreland Central, in relation to the alleged beating of a woman. An altercation captured on CCTV later became a
Able Don-Foote (left), attorney-at-law, reports to the Montego Bay Police Station with his client, George Wright, member of parliament for Westmoreland Central, in relation to the alleged beating of a woman. An altercation captured on CCTV later became a viral video.

Frustration is mounting in the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) over the handling of the allegations of domestic abuse stalking its embattled first-time lawmaker from Westmoreland, George Wright.

Wright, who the police named Monday as a person of interest, was released without charge on Wednesday evening after being questioned in St James by police investigators probing the April 6 beating of a woman caught on video.

The MP for Westmoreland Central did not address the media, leaving the talking to his lawyer, Able-Don Foote, who did not deny that his client was in the seven-minute-long video that emerged over the weekend, triggering public outrage.

“Wright has been questioned and set free by the police, and that is all I am able to say at this time,” said the lawyer outside the Freeport Police Station where his client was interviewed.

Most of the senior leadership of the JLP, including the two spokespersons on the matter – General Secretary Dr Horace Chang and Gender Affairs Minister Olivia Grange – could not be reached for comment following the developments.

Deputy General Secretary Richard Creary was in no mood for questions.

“I have no comment to make on the matter. Speak with the general secretary,” he said before abruptly ending a telephone call with a reporter from this newspaper.

The police, meanwhile, whose approach to the case has also come in for questioning, issued a brief statement indicating that the probe led by St James detectives was ongoing.

“The constabulary will provide further updates as the investigation progresses,” said a statement from the Corporate Communications Unit.

PRESSURE BUILDING

Pressure is, however, building in the JLP, led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, to act decisively in the matter.

“I think we started out with the right tone, but we are not looking so good now because there are things we can do. We don’t have to wait on the criminal process in this case,” said a Corporate Area representative who didn’t want to be named, fearing party sanction for speaking out of turn.

Another rural MP said the party needed to show that it will not waffle, acknowledging that Wright’s not publicly dismissing the allegations was “telling”.

“We can do better. We have to show that we are serious. The public is watching us on this one,” admitted the parliamentarian.

A third official, very close to the internal deliberations, said while the party is “aware” that some influential members are pushing for quick punishment, the JLP has to be “careful” to ensure due process.

The Opposition People’s National Party has led calls for Wright, who was elected to Gordon House last September, to resign because the alleged behaviour was “inconsistent with him holding this high office” and “flies in the face of the national outcry against violence against women”.

On Monday, acting crime officer for Hanover, Carl Brown, said Wright was “elusive” and so, too, the woman seen in the video – both of whom were confirmed to have filed complaints against each other.

The police had also confirmed that Wright was the man seen in the video using a stool to beat the woman said to be his common-law wife.

But they named the legislator a person of interest after disclosing that his complaint that he was attacked in Chester Castle, Hanover, was not consistent with the events watched by thousands.

It was on that basis the JLP issued a statement Monday afternoon urging Wright to make himself available to the police, the party adding that if “there’s confirmation that the party member and MP conducted himself as is being alleged, the consequences will be swift”.

The woman “disappeared” immediately after making a report at the Anchovy Police Station in St James, said a police source.

“The female involved in the incident cannot be located by the police, so investigators are unable to press charges. If and when the woman is found, or if she makes an official report against Mr Wright, the investigations will continue,” the officer added.

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