By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
A government minister is advising his colleagues to adapt the habit of returning phone calls to those who put them in office and also not to change phone numbers they were reached on before coming to office.
Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service gave the advice yesterday while sharing his own experience as an MP.
Prior to leaving office, some politicians in the Minnis administration became unpopular, being cited as inaccessible with most of the MPs and Cabinet ministers allegedly not picking up on calls and not returning them. Members of the press faced similar challenges with the former administration while trying to obtain interviews to include in articles.
With many members of the Davis administration already receiving new phone numbers, Mr Mitchell said there is no reason to change a phone number while in public life.
Both Mr Mitchell and former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham are known to be reached at numbers they have had for well over a decade.
“Let me address the issue of returning phone calls,” Mr Mitchell said. “When I was a young man, I met and was befriended by a man named Edward St George. He was the owner of the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
“It was my first experience, actually, interacting with a rich man and I was surprised after we had a chance meeting and introduction by Sir Lynden Pindling, that he said he would call me back and he did. He later told me that insofar as he could, no matter who it was he would always return a phone call.”
He said: “As a young politician, I parked that in my memory bank and adopted it as a practice. I recommend it to young politicians today. You or your staff should return phone calls and you should also abandon the practice, in this age of mobile phones, of changing your phone number. Keep your number for life – your public life that is. Do not change it, as long as you are in public life.”
Mr Mitchell also advised the would-be callers and seekers of assistance. This is his second time telling them to be patient.
He said: “Now, for the other side of the coin. The caller, the voter, the constituent has some obligations too. One of them is patience. Another is understanding and trying to understand the difference between an emergency, which is life and death, urgency or something which is important.
“I am advised and detect that there is a great deal of anxiety around because eight weeks into the administration the wheels haven’t turned as quickly as we all would like.
“Take a deep breath, folks. Exhale. I was minister of the government before and what astounded me then and astounds me now is how slowly things tend to move. It takes a while to get to know your way around.”
He said some calls or messages can inadvertently slip through the cracks. He not only asked supporters and those trying to make connections to be patient, but he also asked them not to jump to conclusions.
He said: “I asked for my old job back because I wanted to be in a place where there was no learning curve, but where I was able to concentrate on letting you, the public and especially those who voted for us in the last election, know how things were coming along.
“I’ve been heartened by your words of support and encouragement and pained by the myriad of problems and discomforts.
“From the Prime Minister on down to all ministers and MPs, we are pained by these discomforts. The problems are many and the pain is real. I believe that one day at a time they can be solved, but it takes two to make this work.
“Try not to jump to conspiracy theories about the fellows ‘dissing’ you, ignoring you or not paying attention. Sometimes the calls may not be returned because of inadvertence. You can easily miss things on WhatsApp. Sometimes there is the volume of calls which requires delay,” he said.
He further advised the public to try to connect with others as an alternative to have their needs met.
Continuing he said: “Sometimes a text or speaking to the staff will do. All of us have to work together to resolve this. PM, DPM, MPs, ministers, senators have their part and citizens and constituents have their part to do as well.”