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PLP defends Curtis Richardson Senate appointment

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Curtis Richardson Senator in Court (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Progressive Labour Party leadership strongly defended the appointment of a disgraced senator who resigned after a frail elderly woman broke down in tears in court as she told of the toll imposed on her health by the $19,000 rent debt he repeatedly failed to pay.

Party top brass last night rallied around Senator Curtis Richardson after his behaviour provoked widespread criticism. The controversy erupted after his former landlady, Margaret Harvey, who is in her seventies, said she was now sick and her hair is falling out because of the strain of trying to recover the arrears from Mr Richardson.

However, PLP deputy chairwoman Lauren Bell last night claimed discussion of what she called a “private affair” had shifted to one stating that people with debt should not be able to be public servants.

The Harvey family hit back at the claims, insisting that Mr Richardson had made the matter public as he took the case to the Supreme Court last week in a bid to get an arrest warrant out for him cancelled.

At that hearing, Ms Harvey said the PLP senator had warned her she would lose any legal action against him because of his “affiliation”.

But Ms Bell insisted it was a “private matter”, even though The Royal Gazette revealed the Harveys had twice contacted the Premier via the Cabinet Secretary in May and September 2020 warning him of the debt situation.

The Cabinet Secretary, Major Marc Telemaque, e-mailed the Harveys at the beginning of their legal action in September 2020 saying David Burt, the Premier, would “address the matter directly with Mr Richardson in his capacity as party leader”.

However, the next month the Premier elevated Mr Richardson to the Senate and made him a junior health and national security minister earning more than $30,000 for the roles.

Ms Bell said: “The public discourse regarding a private matter involving a PLP senator has shifted. It has shifted from allegations regarding the use of political affiliation to escape the accountability of outstanding debt; to the assertion that an individual with debt should not be eligible to be a public servant.

“To be clear, it is the firm position of the PLP and its leadership that anyone with outstanding debt should ensure every effort is made to rectify the arrears.

“The PLP senator, in an effort to ensure this private matter did not distract from the work of the Government, made a decision to resign.

“The PLP stands firm on their Senate appointment criteria. The Members of the Party who come from all walks of life should be eligible to run for public office as a servant of the people. We reiterate our position that outstanding debts should not be ignored. However, we believe that everyone can serve and lead, and we encourage others to do the same.”

Ms Harvey’s daughter, Dr Margot Harvey, who represented her mother at the Supreme Court, said the matter had been anonymous until Mr Richardson tried to get his arrest warrant revoked.

She said: “He took us to the Supreme Court. We did not take him. He was the plaintiff. He wanted the warrant for his arrest cancelled, and had complaints about what happened in Magistrate’s Court. This has been completely anonymous since the action began in September 2020.

“Curtis Richardson made this public, we didn’t. We did not expose it to the island, Curtis Richardson did.”

An arrest warrant for Mr Richardson was reissued on December 3, 2021 after he failed to attend a court hearing.

Mr Burt said yesterday: “I have called and emailed Dr. Harvey on behalf of the Harvey family as I am more than happy to speak with them directly which I believe is far more productive than doing so via The Royal Gazette.”

David Burt, the Premier (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Questions the Premier has failed to answer for seven days

Why did the Premier appoint Curtis Richardson to the Senate and Junior Ministerial posts – including Health – when he had been warned about his debt situation?

Will the Premier heed the Harvey’s demand for him to answer this question?

Does he support the PLP’s backing for Mr Richardson?

Why did the Premier say nothing on this controversy for four days – despite repeated requests for comment by The Royal Gazette?

Why, despite the Premier’s assertion he “instructed” the debt matter was addressed, was so little money given to Ms Harvey by the senator?

Given that Margaret Harvey says she is now sick and losing her hair because of the toll placed upon her by this lengthy legal action against Mr Richardson for the recovery of his debt to her, does the Premier feel any shame at appointing Mr Richardson to such high offices of state?“

What does Mr Burt think of the Reverend Nicholas Tweed’s sermon on Sunday in which he denounced senator Richardson?

What does he think of Mr Tweed accusing him and the 29 other PLP MPs of hiding behind the court process rather than offering leadership?

In an e-mail between the Harvey family and the Cabinet Secretary Marc Telemaque, seen by The Royal Gazette, and sent before Mr Richardson was made a senator, the senior civil servant states: ‘I’m sorry this is not resolved. I have made the Premier aware, and I expect he will address the matter directly with Mr Richardson in his capacity as party leader’. How, exactly, did the Premier address the situation with Mr Richardson?