WRIGHT OR WRONG?
• Pastor says embattled MP an avid church-goer • Constituents concerned over ability to deliver as independent
It is not very often that Canon Hartley Perrin, rector of the St Peter’s Anglican Church in Petersfield, Westmoreland, can recall his church member George Wright being absent from Sunday worship since the embattled member of parliament (MP) was confirmed over five years ago.
According to Perrin, who is also the custos rotulorum for the parish, Wright and his lady love, Tannisha Singh, were almost always in attendance and would bring friends along on occasions.
“I can describe him as an amiable, warm, friendly, and a regular member,” Perrin told The Sunday Gleaner last Thursday. “George was confirmed over five years ago at a confirmation in Darliston and has been doing well, even if he comes in a little late, but he will be there sitting down and when questions are asked he is one of the first to answer.
“Even when he served as a councillor and since he has become member of parliament, when you could say he is busy so he does not have to come, but George is going to come. He is even present at Wednesday morning services.”
Wright, who polled 4,485 votes on a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) ticket last September to wrest the Westmoreland Central seat from People’s National Party incumbent Dwayne Vaz (3,958 votes), is now said to be an independent member of the House.
He has been embroiled in a whirlwind of controversy since a video surfaced showing a man beating a woman with his fists and a stool. The police had sought Wright as a person of interest in the matter, but declared they had closed the case as neither Wright nor Singh was interested in pressing charges and the video footage was inconclusive.
Wright has not admitted to any wrongdoing.
MEDIATION ON ‘SEVERAL OCCASSIONS’
But Perrin reported that he has had to mediate disagreements between the two on “several occasions” in the past.
“Yes, I would have cause to counsel them on several occasions. They would have had issues of one kind or another,” he said, although not revealing the reasons the couple had sought his intervention. “So sometimes the lady would be the one presenting an issue about him and sometimes he is the one who comes forward complaining. Then sometimes, both are on the line together complaining at once. So I have had them in meetings together and I have had them separately.”
Both Wright and Singh have made contact since the controversial video that has created national outrage was made public, the clergyman said.
“I spoke to him twice,” said Perrin. “The most recent has been two days ago (Tuesday), and funny enough, one of the first questions he asked was if church was held last Sunday, as if he wanted to apologise for not being there.”
When Singh made contact, Perrin said that he listened without probing.
”She said she would be coming to talk with me as soon as possible, but I did not think it was appropriate to get into the matter on the phone,” he said. “My thing was just to use the opportunity to let her know that I am always here for them both.”
Wright was nowhere to be found when The Sunday Gleaner team visited his Petersfield home late last week. He did not return several calls made to his phone or respond to messages. Our news team also tried unsuccessfully to reach his attorney, Able-Don Foote.
Residents looked around nervously before declining to talk about the man known to many as ‘Masquerade’.
Businessman Ashton Pitt believes Wright should vacate his seat in the House as the situation could jeopardise future development of the constituency.
“The honourable thing for him to do is to resign,” said Pitt, a popular player in the tourism sector in western Jamaica. “His lawyer rightly pointed out that his constitutional rights would be breached if any action is taken against him, but while he might not have been found guilty in the court of law, in the court of public opinion, he is damaged goods.”
Added Pitt: “We did not elect an independent to the seat of Westmoreland Central. The people voted for a JLP candidate for their representative, so he must do the honourable thing and step aside because we need proper representation.”
Another prominent investor with several businesses in the parish capital said he supported Wright in his campaign for Gordon House, but was embarrassed by the allegations.
“If it is him or not, it is already causing embarrassment for the constituency,” he told The Sunday Gleaner. “He checked me during the campaign and I supported him with a thing (donation), but as one who stands by certain family values, what I saw was unacceptable at all levels and I would hope that it is not him.”
As the first citizen of the parish and a product of the constituency, Perrin admitted to being in a state of worry for what is to come under an independent representative, a sentiment shared by a number of residents, he claims.
“I am worried because as the independent you are neither fish nor fowl. You are neither Opposition nor Government, so who is going to give you the leverage to do the things that need to be done for the parish?” he said. “George made a tremendous impact as MP. No one can say otherwise, but where is he going to get the funding? Where will he get the support?
“So it really puts Central Westmoreland in limbo, and the people in Central Westmoreland are concerned because they not only voted for George Wright, they voted for a government – Andrew Holness as the leader of the JLP,” the custos said. “It was under their banner and ticket that he represents the people of Central Westmoreland and won their confidence, so if he is hanging out on a limb, I am not sure what kind of support he can generate.”
Perrin labelled the situation as “tricky”, adding that he was sorry that such a situation had befallen the constituency as the people were optimistic of positive change in Westmoreland Central when Wright was given the reins last September.
“George had a good political promise,” said Perrin. “He certainly was not the brightest of the crayons in the pack, but certainly, he was one of those persons who compensated by his diligence, by his work and by his contact with people.”