Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarifies recent media reports

-Press Release - Belmopan - November 8th , 2010 - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade wishes to refer to recent articles in the media commenting on the termination of the contract of Ms. Kamela Palma, Belize’s High Commissioner to the Court of St. James, London, England.
Some sections of the media have speculated that Ms. Palma was released because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade may be defending or protecting an officer posted at the London Mission whose name has been mentioned in connection with financial discrepancies. There is no truth in that speculation!
The High Commissioner’s contract was terminated because she had willfully disregarded clear instructions given to her in writing by her Chief Executive Officer. Additionally, she had subsequently written and published a correspondence to her Chief Executive Officer that was not only disrespectful of the CEO but was wholly unbecoming of the office of Belize’s Chief Diplomat in the United Kingdom.

Kamela Palma

Ms. Palma was given ample opportunity to explain her conduct and to offer an appropriate apology to the CEO, but she remained unrepentant and unapologetic. The Ministry, with very great reluctance, therefore, felt that it had no other recourse but to terminate the employment of the High Commissioner in accordance with her contract.
No country can permit a Senior Foreign Service Officer to flout lawfully given instructions or to act with impunity. Such a course of conduct conduces to erosion of discipline and professionalism, and can imperil an entire nation.
Appended herewith is a copy of the offending correspondence sent by Ms. Palma to her CEO:


CEO Rosado,
I refer to your Memorandum sent from you today, signed by a member of the Ministry's staff on your behalf by email to Ms Tanya Hulse, First Secretary at the Belize High Commission in which you have authorised Ms Tanya Hulse, without seeking to ask my reason for not having Ms Hulse oversee the office in my absence, to assume the role of Acting High Commissioner at the Belize High Commission.
Let me point the following (which could have easily been resolved and understood by us had you not acted in such a high-handed, interfering, meddling and undermining manner):
* For the record, no one has been left at the office as Acting High Commissioner - a role indeed for a responsible and trusted diplomat to assume. Not naming someone as 'Acting High Commissoner' is nothing new nor is this unprecented. You will also agree that it is the Head of Mission's remit to make such a decision - especially in view of the circumstances which confront the Belize High Commission at the present moment. I am very prepared to elucidate more on the matter of lack of trust in handling Government of Belize's funds, of the fact that this has been reported to HQ in three reports and that the seriousness of these three reports have been either summarily dismissed, misinterpreted, or ignored.
* Ms Matus has been left in charge of the running of the office - its closing, its opening, the attention to mail, the handling of the keys.
* I am in twice daily telephone contact with the office; I monitor the Mission's emails constantly throughout the day, and can respond to any questions or queries which might come up and give directives as required. As a matter of interest, only consular matters have needed attention.
* I have curtailed my leave to 5 working days only in view of the fact that this is the quietest period in the diplomatic calendar and that there is NO diplomatic activity happening during these 5 days.
* Ms Hulse has been tasked during my absence with the job of concentrating on the vast back-log of unresolved consular issues and
to clear that backlog by mid-September - a task which it is obvious, Ms Hulse has struggled with achieving over the past months. To be fair to Ms Hulse, these issues are not all necessarily brought on by her but by past issues.
* The day to day oversight of the Mission left to Ms Matus (who by the way has proved herself vastly competent and trustworthy - and you more than anyone else are aware of this) is simply a technical task.
* In case there is a doubt in anyone's mind, there is no monetary or other compensation to be paid to Ms Matus to 'man' the physical space that is the office.
* I explained to both Ms Hulse and Ms Matus in my meeting with them last week exactly how my absence would be handled and the roles and responsibilities I wished each to assume in view of the quiet period in London. I told Ms Hulse that I would want to start to push her towards diplomatic work in September and therefore the urgency to get a grip on the consular work now.
* In view of all of the above, I expect Ms Matus to continue in charge of the running of the office during my short absence, as per my directive, as Head of Mission.
CEO, your actions and the 'instructions' which you have written on the Note Verbale sent from this Mission to Protocol and Missions in London in which you advise members of my staff to consider that Note Verbale 'null and void' and to ignore that Note Verbale is at the least, disrespectful and undermining of the office of Head of Mission, and at the most, downright untenable.
I therefore must ask you whether you now intend to run the office of the High Commissioner out of your office in Belmopan and whether you will continue to interfere in affairs and decisions which a Head of Mission has made in all good conscience to ensure the smooth running of the office.
You must now take responsibility for the manner in which you have handled this situation and I expect to have nothing less than an apology for such an undermining act.
Kamela Palma
High Commissioner
Belize High Commission

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