By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
NORTH Abaco MP Renardo Curry yesterday said his shoddy attendance at House of Assembly proceedings to date was due to him being “challenged” by the conflicting nature of his jobs as both MP and parliamentary secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister in Abaco.
Mr Curry has been absent from parliamentary proceedings 102 times out of the 220 times the House of Assembly has met this term, according to a local newspaper report.
Mr Curry, in an interview with reporters outside of the House of Assembly yesterday, said it has been “somewhat of a challenge” moving “back and forth” between Abaco, where he and his family live, and New Providence to honour both obligations.
He also said it would be “more questionable” if MPs that live in New Providence and represent
constituencies situated in the capital are notably absent from the House, as he said it is “much more convenient” for them to attend proceedings.
He also suggested that his attendance in the House of Assembly should not be a measure of his performance as a member of Parliament, claiming that “representation is about understanding what the people really need, and getting those things done” as opposed to “just making a speech” in the House.
However, Mr Curry criticised the newspaper that published the story regarding his absences, stating that it is “unfortunate that on the eve of an election, they would print such things to try and discredit me and my representation in Abaco.”
Meanwhile, National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage, leader of government business in the House, said he is not aware of any plans to penalise Elizabeth MP Ryan Pinder for his absences from the House, which reportedly amount to 58. Mr Pinder has reportedly not attended a House sitting since last December.
“…What I will point out is that the House is likely to be dissolved within the matter of weeks if not days and I think that such action will be irrelevant and he’s not offering himself (Mr Pinder) to run in the next election,” Dr Nottage said. “When people are absent you have to be careful that you know why they are absent and I don’t think anyone has indicated why he was absent.”
According to the same newspaper report, Dr Nottage has the best attendance record amongst parliamentarians with just six absences.
“I see they say I was absent for six days and I don’t recall being absent for any days,” Dr Nottage said of the report. “I can speak for myself and say that I have been absent for the least amount of days.”
According to a report in The Nassau Guardian, which was based on information contained in records of the House of Assembly, Mr Curry led all parliamentarians with 102 House absences. Marco City MP Greg Moss followed close behind with 93 absences; Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell with 69, and West End and Bimini MP Obie Wilchcombe with 48.
For the Official Opposition, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner was absent 33 times, while Killarney MP Dr Hubert Minnis was absent 11 times.
When questioned on his absences yesterday, Mr Curry said he was “a bit surprised” at the numbers contained in the newspaper report and that he “didn’t recognise that it would be 102.” However, he said he disagrees “somewhat” with the figures given.
“For me I am the parliamentary secretary placed in the Office of the Prime Minister in Abaco,” he said. “I don’t have an apartment here in Nassau, so it’s been somewhat of a challenge, back and forth. Much of my workload would include me having to do a number of things there, so it would keep me there sometimes, more often than I would like to.
“But the House of Assembly, when I try to come as much as possible, I try to be here to make my contribution. But it’s unfortunate that on the eve of an election, they would print such things to try and discredit me and my representation in Abaco.”
He added: “In North Abaco, the people of North Abaco know that I am always on the ground, I live among them, and the reality is the job is a very strenuous job, it entails a lot of work not only at the Office of the Prime Minister in Abaco, but travelling to Nassau. And often times when I’m in Nassau, I’m about different ministries doing what we need to do to accomplish our work.
“And so yes they can make a political point out of it, but for me, I believe representation is about understanding what the people really need, and getting those things done.”
When pressed by a reporter on how his constituents may respond to his absences and possibly view it as a form of neglect, Mr Curry said: “The times that I’ve been absent from the House of Assembly, I would always be present at the Office of the Prime Minister working.
“So it’s not that I’m taking some time off to play golf or take a vacation. No, it’s no such thing. It would always be that I would be always present at my office, and I’ll follow those deliberations at the House of Assembly, even though I may not be physically present. So it’s a continuous work and my constituents can tell you we have an open door policy at the Office of the Prime Minister and at times if they don’t see me in the House they can always find me at my office working.
“This was something I believe that was done for the first time having in the Family Islands, (the) Office of the Prime Minister having a parliamentary secretary posted there at that office. The challenge is great because now my family is there, I live there on that island and my appointment is there.
“Most of the members of Parliament that you see in the House with the exception of some of them, most of them live here in Nassau. They have homes here. So it’s much more convenient for individuals like that who are a part of the House of Assembly to be present.”
Nonetheless, Mr Curry said he is looking into securing some form of lodging in New Providence “to make it much more convenient in keeping that balance.” However, he maintained that his performance as an MP should not be judged solely on his attendance record.
“It would be one thing to say that Mr Curry would have missed all these days in the House of Assembly and nothing was done on the ground to show for it,” he said. “The reality is there is evidence on the ground that shows that work is being done in North Abaco and has been done to better the constituency as a whole.”