The Saint Lucia Public Service, More Needs to be Done

Last week on Facebook an exchange of words took place between Home Affairs Minister Dr. Virginia Albert – Poyotte and Catherine Sealys, a human rights defender and activist for women and girls.

It was a cordial exchange, which did not garner many comments, but which underscored the perennial complaints Saint Lucians have about the public service and how politicians view the public service.

This short, yet deeply profound exchange of words, revealed why our public service, which is under the thumbs of the politicians in power, cannot be driven effectively, irrespective of the political party holding the reins of government.

The dialogue between the two women went this way:

Sealys: “The Minister of Home Affairs need to hire me to fire people for her!”

Minister Poyotte: “Who do you intend to fire Catherine Sealys.”

Sealys: Virginia Albert a number of police officers who insists they are blocking justice for women who have been maimed by men.”

The dialogue ended there since the Minister did not respond after that.

We could end our editorial here because the underlying message from this exchange between a citizen and a sitting government minister is clear. Politicians, when in opposition could see the cracks in the Service and blame the sitting government for those faults, but on assuming office, they no longer see the cracks or weaknesses they once exposed, filling the service with their own people, oblivious to those people deficiencies and lack of professionalism.

For ages have the calls been coming in to purge the public service of ineptitude, nepotism and being a barrier to its own growth and development. And every time we believe the calls will be heard we hear of stories that bear witness to the stifling of these calls.

Make no mistake, dismissals occur within the public service, however most of those who are dismissed are the ones who are thorns in the side of ruling politicians who cannot get their way. Those ruling politicians find creative ways to replace public servants who are prepared to call a spade a spade. And in some instances, treat those public servants with scorn.

How many times have we heard that the police force is made up of men and women with integrity and that it is only a handful of bad apples that are spoiling its reputation.

Many of us heard this as children. Today, as parents and grandparents, we are still hearing this. What must it take to have a police force in which the words ‘a few spoiled apples” does not apply.

What must it take for workers within the public service and the politicians to understand that the public service is designed to meet the needs of the society and its population, and that it is not their home away from home where they feel they could do whatever they please.

Yes, we understand the effectiveness of the public service is challenging as more citizens find themselves on the breadline and less money is pumped into it. However, that should not take away the focus on efficiency and the purpose that the public service is there to serve the public.

The public service, today, more than ever, needs to become more strategic, transparent and innovative in their decision making. Politicians, when in power, need to understand that the public service is crucial to the survival of citizens and not a dumping ground for any of their followers who need a job.

The services the public service offers must be sustainable and employees (workers), which include government ministers, must act in an ethical and responsible manner to maintain public confidence and trust. Unless it is seen that standards of integrity are demanded and delivered, we, the people will only receive the droppings from the political table.

Should we continue in the trend that we are in right now, whatever strides we’ve accomplished as a nation will only disappear as we will only be taking backward steps. One step forward two steps backward…. we all know the rest.

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