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‘Burt’s got a crisis on his hands’

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Sir John Swan, the island’s longest-serving premier (File photograph)

The island’s longest-serving premier last night criticised the way the shock resignation of finance minister Curtis Dickinson was handled.

Sir John Swan warned that the mishandling of the crisis by David Burt, the Premier, would hurt the economy and the island’s international credibility as the island prepared for the annual Budget on February 25.

He said: “It’s damaging to the economy, to international business. He had a background in banking.

“He understood finance. He understood connectivity. He was respected. This is so ill-timed – on the eve of a Budget.”

Sir John added there was no obvious replacement for Mr Dickinson in the ranks of the PLP. He added: “There is nobody there.”

Sir John, who was the United Bermuda Party premier between 1982 and 1995, added he believed Mr Dickinson’s shock decision to quit was linked to disagreements with Mr Burt about the proposed Government involvement with the renovation of the Fairmont Southampton hotel.

He insisted there was no one in the Parliamentary Progressive Labour Party with enough experience to handle the job and warned that Mr Burt, who held the portfolio after he became premier in 2017, should not take on the job himself.

Sir John was speaking after the One Bermuda Alliance accused Mr Burt of running an administration that was “out of control, in a crisis”.

The Opposition claimed that Mr Burt had dragged his feet over the appointment of a new finance minister and the replacement for a PLP senator who resigned in disgrace last month.

The Government last night announced a swearing-in ceremony at Government House at 9am today – but failed to say what position, or positions, would be filled.

Sir John said the loss of Mr Dickinson was a blow to the island.

Sir John said that “everybody knows” Mr Dickinson had reservations about the Fairmont Southampton deal.

He asked: “Why not let him deal with the Budget first and then make a decision on the hotel? He clearly had reservations. Why the rush? Why did it need to be done now?

“We have enormous debt and slow GDP growth. The Premier could have waited. I think he’s got a crisis on his hands.”

The sudden resignation of Mr Dickinson on Monday sparked OBA claims that Mr Burt’s PLP administration was rudderless as the island struggled with the massive economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

The Royal Gazette also understands that disagreements over a deal with developers Gencom on the stalled renovation of the Fairmont Southampton may be at the heart of Mr Dickinson’s decision to quit.

Curtis Dickinson, the former Minister of Finance (File photograph)

The unexpected departure from the Cabinet has also raised questions about Mr Burt’s leadership style.

Marcus Jones, an OBA senator and the shadow economic development minister, said: “The timing of Mr Dickinson’s resignation makes it look like this is an administration that is out of control, in a crisis.

“The Premier is not performing this side of the job well. It’s poor judgment.”

Cole Simons, the OBA leader, earlier suggested a Cabinet bust-up over the Fairmont Southampton deal could have led to Mr Dickinson’s decision to quit.

Mr Burt said in the House of Assembly on February 4 that he expected a deal to be signed with Gencom in the near future, but no announcement has been made.

He added that legislation for Government-backed support for the reopening of the resort would be tabled in the House of Assembly.

Mr Burt said that the move would “provide certainty to the various investors who stand to inject over $200 million into this redevelopment”.

The Premier also drew fire for not filling a vacant Upper House seat quickly enough after PLP senator Curtis Richardson resigned in January.

Mr Richardson quit the Senate after the Supreme Court heard he owed his elderly ex-landlady $19,000 in back rent.

David Burt, the Premier (File photograph)

The family of Margaret Harvey, who is in her seventies, warned the Premier about Mr Richardson’s mounting debt in May and September 2020.

Mr Burt appointed Mr Richardson to the Senate and junior ministerial roles in October 2020.

The OBA is expected to raise Mr Burt’s handling of the resignations in the House and Senate at a delayed session of the Upper House today.

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Published February 16, 2022 at 5:36 pm (Updated February 16, 2022 at 5:36 pm)

‘Burt’s got a crisis on his hands’

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