The Jamaican diaspora in South Florida is calling on the Andrew Holness-led administration and local Jamaican authorities to, once and for all, take a firm stance against Westmoreland Central member of parliament George Wright who, for the last month, has been embroiled in an extremely controversial assault scandal.
Wright, a member of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), is allegedly the person involved in a viral video, where the individual is seen physically abusing a woman who is believed to be his partner Tannisha Singh.
Both individuals had filed reports to the police on April 6, but neither confirmed whether the videoed incident and the reported altercation were one in the same.
Despite the police closing the highly publicized case due to a lack of cooperation and inconclusive video footage of the woman being repeatedly and mercilessly beaten with the man’s fists and a stool, Wright was shunned from the JLP’s parliamentary caucus. He has also gone on a paid leave of absence from the House of Representatives.
Since the incident came to the fore, an amalgamation of Jamaican advocacy groups including social justice, business and religious communities have called on Wright to resign.
In the Jamaican-American community in South Florida, several influential public figures have expressed their disappointment in George Wright as well as the Jamaican authorities for their handling of the incident.
Dr. Allan Cunningham, Global Jamaica Diaspora Council Representative for the Southern States, said in an interview with Caribbean National Weekly, “When I saw the video, I was shocked and disappointed that these kinds of incidents of abuse are still taking place in our society. And for it to be a member of parliament, an elected official caught abusing a woman in such a wicked fashion, it speaks to the breakdown of morals in our society and the disregard that men on a whole have for women.”
Cunningham went on further to say that the Jamaican government should make its position on abuse firmly known while making an example of the situation. He continued, “I was 100 percent disappointed with the decision of the government and even more disappointed by such an archaic justice system. To have such a blatant act of criminality go unpunished is a low moment for Jamaica. This is one moment when I am not proud of the country.”
Jamaican-born Youth and Community Advocate Lavern Deer, who is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Female Development World Organization, said that watching the video was painful and traumatizing for her. “As a child growing up in Jamaica, I witnessed the same things happening on my street. As children, we would be playing. Then, we see a man and a woman start to argue and the man just starts beating the woman. And, it just became a norm.”
In regards to how the case was handled by authorities, she said that the country needs to revisit its laws to achieve long-term change.
“As Jamaicans, we need to look at the root cause if we are going to attempt to solve this as a community. It starts with the laws, the policies and the rules. And we have to ask: are they enough to protect us, the citizens?” She further stated that this behavior should never be condoned, regardless of the status of the perpetrator. “It is just not acceptable; it is against human rights.”
In speaking to the leave of absence granted to George Wright, Deer also said, “It is hard to say if [the leave] is a sufficient consequence. It is, however, similar to what happens in America and the Black Lives Matter movement where police are killing unarmed black men and [the policemen’s] punishment does not fit the crime.”
While many social justice and business groups, along with average residents, have called on Wright to resign, some Jamaicans have shown their support for the embattled MP.
Many have also been critical of the public response from Wright’s own church, the St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Westmoreland, Jamaica, in saying that it will not turn its back on him. To this end, Jamaican-American rector of the Holy Family Episcopal Church in Miami Gardens Father Horace Ward said it is not problematic for the church to show support for Wright. He opined, however, that in doing so they must also condemn the alleged abuse.
“It’s not that the local church community has condoned the actions on video, but rather [it expresses] God’s love. That’s a huge distinction.” Ward quickly followed, however, by expressing his concern about the recent wave of killings and abuse against Jamaican women. He said, “This must stop now and I will do by part in speaking out against these violations of our women.”
To date, despite the local and international condemnation and calls for George Wright to resign, the member of parliament has given no indication that he plans to resign from Jamaica’s House of Representatives. He has also not confirmed or denied whether he was the man caught on the video.