Walters in hot water
Front Page
October 12, 2007

Walters in hot water

Government Minister Selmon Walters put his foot in his mouth, and is now trying to take it out, and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says he should not be “hanged” for the offence.{{more}}

Speaking on Monday at an Ecumenical Church Service at the Kingstown Evangelical Church, to mark the formal opening of Public Service Week, Walters, who is the minister for the public service, caused anger to stir in the house of the Lord.

During his address, Walters made reference to the importance of good customer service, and referred to two incidents, which he gave as examples of times when he was subjected to poor service.

In one case, Walters said that he was late for a sitting of Parliament, but first had to do business at the National Commercial Bank. He did not join the line, but rather asked an employee of the bank to assist him. The employee told Walters that he would have to join the line.

Walters said that he explained the situation he was in to the employee and asked him if he knew who he was, which did not sway the employee.

In another situation, Walters was on his way into town, and had to drop his son off at the St. Vincent Grammar School. However traffic was being diverted at Sion Hill, through Cane Garden, by a police officer.

Walters explained that he asked the police officer for permission to go straight, but was ignored.

The police continued to gesture that he was to turn into Cane Garden, but the Minister disobeyed and simply passed through.

The problem with Walters’ examples, according to Prime Minister Gonsalves, is that on each count the minister was wrong!

The realization of the folly of his stance seems to have hit home to Minister Walters, because yesterday (Thursday October 11th) he issued three written apologies.

In a letter addressed to Commissioner of Police Keith Miller, Walters said that he ought not to have been critical of the police officer, who was properly carrying out his duties.

“Indeed I was wrong not to have followed the officer’s traffic instructions on the day in question,” the letter states.

To the CEO of the National Commercial Bank, Philip Hernandez, Walters writes: “Although I still think that the teller was probably not as sensitive as he could possibly have been in the circumstances, I am satisfied that my reaction and subsequent comments were out of proportion to what actually transpired.”

Walters also apologized to the Public Service Union president, Aubrey Burgin.

He admitted that as he sought to address the issue of service delivery by public employees, that the two examples that he chose were unfortunate.

“These examples were most inappropriate to the issue at hand,” Walters said.

In all three letters Walters unreservedly apologized.

Prime Minister Dr Gonsalves told SEARCHLIGHT that Walters is a good human being, and he hoped that his sincere apologies bring closure to the issue.

“He is not stuffed with arrogance, he mis-spoke,” Dr Gonsalves said.