Politicians are servants of the people not masters. They are to carry out the demands of the people affected by any decisions made and not become onlookers. How could a seasoned minister of the government stand and declare that counterfeit goods are prohibited from the straw industry and not the country-at-large? I am of the opinion that the counterfeit goods, if illegal, should be barred at the point of entry of the country such as illegal firearms and drugs. The straw vendors carry many products, why then are certain interested persons bickering about counterfeit goods? The late Diana Thompson, a straw legend and president of the Straw Vendors Union from 1973 (37 years ago), cleared the way for straw vendors to sell products other than locally made products (straw goods etc.) by the government of that day.
How many markets that carry only Bahamian products does our govemment want in the downtown area (e.g. Festival Place – which is supposed to be a truly Bahamian straw and craft market which is located on Prince George Dock – one of our main entry points for our cruise passengers)? The world famous Straw Market is a brand known all over the world. The straw vendors built the brand over the years. Some members of our society love to refer to the straw vendors as being ungrateful but, in my opinion, certain members of the public are unappreciative of the straw vendors’ contribution. It was the straw vendors that gave The Bahamas a tourism product where even foreign investors – who come to our shores to invest billions of dollars – want to use our product to partly market their product. The straw vendors kept the business alive over 50 plus years. Which other businesses in our society has this type of appeal and impact?
I believe Ms. Nikki Kelly is trying to stop free speech which is an intricate part of a democratic country. It seems as though only her and our government are at liberty to voice whatever they choose and all others must remain silent. I believe Nikki Kelly wants the rich to become richer and the poor become poorer. I think it is critical at this juncture to address the matter of “war on the government”. This statement has been taken very much out of context I believe that persons should be educated to the fact that war has many meanings. In the context in which I said it, I meant that there is a disagreement, we have an issue and we are in conflict. I do not own weapons of destruction as certain people would like to portray me. I really thought better of certain persons who have previously written articles on this subject matter.
On another note, the record will reflect, if found, that majority of the vendors did pay the required $7 per week. For argument’s sake, if we are saying that the vendors did not pay the $7 per week, which is being voiced by persons who have no knowledge on which they write, why then did our government see it feasible for vendors to now be faced with paying $46 to $58 per week? This does not make sense to me. I believe, as a group that pays taxes in many facets of our society including customs duties, straw vendors’ contribution is being used to build the new market.
Ms. Kelly mentioned in her article that, “I am convinced that the only reason Rev. Esther is protesting so much is because she really doesn’t know how to work in straw”. To this end, I want to say to Ms. Kelly, I can teach any straw teacher how to work in straw. In times past, straw vendors were looked upon as low on the status pole. Now, it appears as though certain persons of interest want front row seats since the straw market has become a key player leaving behind those that truly labored in this vineyard these many years. There were many days when the rain wet the vendors and the sun dried them. The vendors’ desire is to have a shelter without the added conflict and confusion. There are so many other government corporations/agencies that are subsidized millions of dollars per year. Why is it that so many people find the straw market of
such interest at this time? This is a one-time expenditure and not recurrent.
Also extracted from the November 29th Punch article “Meantime, until she forks up $11.2 million to buy the market, all Bahamians have a say in who or what goes in there. And if she and her associates are unwilling to abide by the new rules, they should be shown the door.” I want to enlighten Ms. Kelly, we have already forked up $11.2 million plus, jointly, in tax dollars. Therefore, we can conclude that the new market has already been paid for by the vendors. Our government is our elected administrator of those funds. As an insensitive, brassy guest of the straw market, Ms. Kelly should be shown the door.
Also mentioned in the article, “I hope the minister will have the spine to stand up to this loud mouth who so typifies the blatant digrespect for the law that is now rampant throughout this society.” The Bible says “to cry aloud and lift up your voice like a trumpet…” Therefore, as a point of information, I am very proud of my big mouth that God blessed me with. Moreover, some members of our society, inclusive of government oficials, don’t feel that respect should be given to straw vendors. Respect goes both ways. You must first give respect in order to expect it.
In conclusion, without the straw vendors, there would be no need to build a straw market. Think on those things. All we ask for is a shelter and the respect straw vendors deserve. Ms. Nikki Kelly, the bashing must stop. We have developed a product that we all can be proud of. I am of the opinion that our government should have been in consultation with the leadership of the straw vendors as it relates to matters captioned above, like any other sector in our country. The Bahamas is for all Bahamians to benefit. The straw market is not merely a building but it is comprised of people giving a concerted effort to make the product that we see today. We don’t desire to break or disrespect any laws, but to provide a sector that will keep people employed. The industry as we know it includes a number of young people who have no desire to work in straw. So lets keep these young entrepreneurs in business.
REV. ESTHER THOMPSON
President Straw Business Persons Society