Letter to the editor: FIX THE CIVIL SERVICE!

Dear Editor,


I write this letter with consternation after an exchange yesterday with an employee at the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation. Firstly, (and this applies to ALL ministries), why do civil servants believe that using “Miss or Mrs…So and so” is the proper way to introduce themselves instead of using their first name? How can you contact them, especially those who have a common surname like Smith or Bethel, if you cannot distinguish them amongst the huge office of people! Please, Department of Public Service, hold a seminar for civil servants, headed by properly qualified individuals, to teach proper etiquette and basic commonsense (although the commonsense part might be pushing it)!

The next extremely important training exercise needed is to provide the correct knowledge and understanding of Bahamian Art, Culture and Heritage. Over the four plus decades that my late husband Jackson Burnside and I have been traversing this landscape attempting to unveil the rich treasures of our unique art, culture and heritage that have been lovingly passed down from the sweat and tears of our ancestors; we have experienced countless encounters with untrained and ill equipped persons who have no clue what they are espousing to our visitors and the general public! I continue to despair of the lack of replacements for the likes of Anatol Rodgers, Setella Cox, or Vernice Cooper who taught our people the basic and essential lessons of life and living!

Having just celebrated another anniversary of Majority Rule, it is unfortunate that many of the benefits obtained during that struggle have been cast aside without the realization for what it all signified.  We can only progress forward and onwards if we are anchored to a strong foundation. It seems as if, having arrived at a pinnacle of Majority Rule, we figured ‘we reach’ and stopped striving to move even further, content to lazily rest on our laurels expecting forward movement to take place without expending any effort! This cannot happen – pure and simple! Unless you have a firm foundation in place and get the basics right ‘in the first beginning’ and thereafter, ain’t nuttin happenin’, resulting in us either sliding down the pinnacle due to laziness, or teetering precariously on the ledge due to ignorance. What makes it even more scary is that fact that many of us don’t even realize this sad state of affairs we are in!

In 2014 Creative Nassau obtained membership for the City of Nassau in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. This prestigious designation was obtained based on the amazing creativity enshrined in our culture and heritage with which we, as a people, have been endowed. We must respect the seriousness of this task and ensure that this legacy is properly protected and use for the benefit of the greater good.  This country has countless historical treasures that many of us either are not aware of, ignore, allow to crumble, or simply demolish.

I become upset when tourism officials send visitors to my art gallery under the pretext of it being a ‘historical site’, or a tourism representative calls by phone to ask us to give them valuable Bahamian fine art treasures two weeks before an event to take in their luggage to foreign shores, or a tourism tour guide sends persons to our ‘junkanoo museum’ which has not existed for years!

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and this perpetual ignorance and laziness is seriously damaging our tourism product! If tourism is supposed to be our lifeblood, we are in kidney failure!  If tourism is the repository of programmes like Bahamahost to train persons to be stewards and ambassadors of our culture and heritage, we are in cardiac failure!

This sad state of affairs must be corrected immediately! It is time to get serious and train persons properly in what this country is all about and what we, as a people, have to offer. Train, test and assess persons on their qualification and abilities, call out those whose ignorance damages our product, and get rid of those who refuse to get it right! Stop using ill prepared persons to teach the essential lessons – use our own experts to tell the ‘true true’ story of who we are and what we have to offer because our present and our future, and that of our children, and children’s children depend on it!

Yours sincerely,

Pam Burnside