Browne accuses Lovell of dangling ‘false hope’

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The leader of the country’s main opposition party would be creating mischief in public office by implying that a United Progressive Party government (UPP) would take on the liability of several private companies that are now defunct.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, head of the ruling Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), made the assertion while interacting with staffers of the OBSERVER newsroom yesterday.
During a brief visit to the media house, the prime minister was asked his opinion on the promise made by UPP Political Leader Harold Lovell to former Stanford workers regarding outstanding severance.
On Monday, at a meeting with former workers of Sticky Wicket, the Athletic Club and the Sun Printing and Publishing Limited, Lovell indicated that should the UPP win the March 21 general elections, the new administration would pay them severance from the government’s treasury.
However, Browne strongly stated that the UPP’s political leader provided a hopeless commitment to the more than 50 workers, who had attended that meeting.
He suggested that Lovell is a private citizen who has no authority to make such promises.
“Whatever he would have said to them is like a comfort to a fool. It is unenforceable.
“When he had the leverage to secure the interest of the Stanford workers he did nothing. The actual demise [of Stanford’s empire] took place in February 2009. Lovell became the finance minister a few weeks later. He could have set off that $6 million against amounts that were owed by the government to the Stanford Group,” Browne said.
He further accused the UPP leader of “dangling something that is not doable.”
According to him, settling severance payments for defunct companies that have no assets is a “very dangerous precedent” whereby they would have to go back and settle other private entities.
“Why this one? Why not all the other companies that went defunct in which workers were not paid their severance?” he asked before stating that his government has called on the Stanford liquidators to look at the current global situation and to include this particular group of workers in the settlement.
Pointing out that the discussion on this particular issue is ongoing, the ABLP leader said: “Where we have the remaining problem is the companies that are now defunct with no asset. The liquidators have no legal obligation to pay them anything, that is the law. My government has said to them we would like them [the liquidators] to give consideration to settling even a portion of it, considering that we are a part of an entire group.”

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