Embassy politics!: A Third-World Diplomacy Chronicle**: Farook Aman,, a freelance writer, Ottawa, Canada,
** to be publishd in Yemen Times
The Power of pen is sharper than the edge of sword
Detailing fascinating firsthand experience is not just a personal story; it is a modest attempt to enlighten the reader, whomsoever he may be, on how things are generally conducted at some Third-world embassies. The significant point to drive home is to uncover how appallingly and ailing a diplomatic mission often operates. Millions of budgeted dollars of meagre nations are evidently misused with little, if any, coming back in return!
I shall therefore attempt to highlight important issues and shed light, with reasonable clarification, on the most important question; why do some nation-states continually achieve progress, while others remain permanently at the bottom of the list, namely those who are representing Third-World embassies?
My one and half days Job at the embassy?
My personal experience witnessed that early on in December 2008, destiny brought about an ill-fated automobile accident to one of the vehicles which was registered under an Ottawa-based embassy. Apparently, there was no swift follow up on the part of the embassy staff with the local representative of the Auto Insurance Company. The newly appointed Ambassador was due to arrive in Ottawa before the end of December 2008 and there was no embassy vehicle ready and suitable for him. It was the Ambassador’s car that was involved in the mentioned accident on December 8, 2008. Sensing the urgency of the matter, His Excellency, the Charge’ d’ Affairs of that Embassy took it upon himself to act responsibly and hurriedly. While respecting and recognizing my abilities in the English and the Arabic languages, he asked me if I could assist to take over the auto insurance file and follow up in order to expedite compensation from the insurance company prior to the arrival of His Excellency, the Ambassador.
It was an stress-free decision for me since I was willing to join the embassy’s local staff and follow up on that matter as well as offer my expertise on other and potentially more important daily issues that the embassy faces or might have faced until such a time His Excellency, the Ambassador arrived in Ottawa. He will then decide if I should continue to work.
Therefore, on Friday December 13th, 2008, I reported to work with a smile. I was bursting with vigour, enthusiasm and pride that I could finally be able to assist a childbirth country. Instantly, I took charge of the respective insurance file, reviewed the relevant Auto Insurance Policy and began the important follow up task while calculating for the crucial importance of the time limitation to achieve the intended goal of compensation prior to the arrival of His Excellency, the newly appointed Ambassador. Contacts were rapidly made with the local representative of the Auto Insurance Company, the damage vehicle assessment division, the local Canadian authorities to follow up on the Police Accident Report as well as to coordinate for a car rental in an attempt to prepare a free of charge appropriate vehicle suitable for the honour of an Ambassador while waiting for the final decision of the compensation package. The Insurance Company would pay for the rental vehicle according to the terms of the existing Auto Insurance policy. I also met with the embassy driver’s wife who was quite concerned about the injury that her husband sustained due to the accident when the embassy vehicle he was driving was struck from behind by a speeding vehicle, thereby totalling the embassy car. The accident caused him to instantly lose consciousness. He had to be hospitalized. Deep inside, I truly had intended to get some compensation reward from the insurance company for the driver who was nursing his injury at home at the time I initiated the follow up. The embassy vehicle was a total wreck and was written off instantaneously thereafter.
At the end of the working day of the above mentioned Friday, and per the request of the Charge d’ Affairs, I prepared the necessary reports on the follow up I did. I was sincerely pleased with the results accomplished so far. I prepared two reports one of which was in English which I personally entered into the computer. I printed two copies; one to the attention of the Charge’d’ Affairs to review and another copy for the information of the embassy Diplomat Book Keeper. The other report was hand-written in Arabic which I personally handed to the typist to prepare and to get me a copy as early as possible. I was informed that I could ask the Arabic language typist to print it. I learned that in addition to her diplomatic duties, the typist was also assigned to typing Arabic and in return she would receive an additional monthly income over and above her designated handsome diplomatic salary. I inquired as to why the embassy was assigning the Arabic typing duties to a highly paid diplomat since the typing function would interfere with carrying out her important and delicate diplomatic duties for which she was appointed and posted in Ottawa.
The power that runs the embassy affairs-
I did not need to have a proper response since the embassy affairs were evidently conducted with the blessings and the moods of one diplomat; His Excellency, the embassy diplomat Book Keeper who was also the consul. He was in effect the true ruler of the embassy affairs regardless of who was on the wheel of control. What he said must go. That was an eye opening piece of information for me since I knew that the former Ambassador who ended his Ambassadorship term was a no-nonsense individual who had spent about five years in Ottawa; as far as I am concerned he was a qualified individual capable of running the embassy as he did the Ministry of Health, when he was a Minister.
As sure as day light, the Arabic report draft which I requested to be printed urgently was never returned to me for further review. Instead, it was handed to His Excellency, the Embassy Book Keeper. The highly paid diplomatic Typist did not have the decency to update me on the status of the report which I handed her, especially since I initiated it due to the urgency of the matter. However, without referring to me, I learned that the “Diplomatic typist” decided intentionally or otherwise to ignore the typing of certain paragraphs of the report which I prepared. She also made changes to the text which I submitted to her without my prior consent, presumably to suit whatever embassy politics were being played at that mission!
In addition, I learned that the Book Keeper was unwilling to prepare a contract for my services in order to get paid. In fact, he openly resisted having me join the embassy’s local staff for no apparent valid reason(s). I do not pat my back, but I believe that I am one of the most credible local candidates worthy of the job with proven experience. Any Arabic speaking embassy would be pleased to have me on board.
We all know that Friday is Jumma-prayers day. Yet on that day, I noticed that none of the Muslim brothers or sisters at the embassy was willing to perform Jumma-prayers at the main Ottawa Masjid or elsewhere. I therefore missed Jumma for the first time in years. I prayed instead at the embassy premises, alone I might add. Even when I worked with non-Muslims companies, I went for Jumma Prayers during lunch time. Therefore, I continued diligently to do whatever His Excellency the Charge’ d’ Affairs assigned me to do including but not limited to essential translations duties for the attention of the esteemed Ministry of Foreign Affairs thousands of miles away.
Fired to continue working-
On my birthday, Monday December 15, 2008, I reported to work at 9 a.m. as I did on Friday. This was going to be my second day at work with the embassy, and obviously I did not know what was awaiting me. I rang the bell at the front door several times. It was often locked for security reasons and a remote control button equipped with a display screen was used to open it. But because of the frigid cold temperature that morning, the remote control failed to operate and the door did not open. Finally and thankfully, the door swung open, and it was the Ambassador’s Office Assistant (Secretary) who welcomed me into the premises. Her office was located on the third floor of the huge redundant office space. However, the door to the second floor offices was also locked and I did not have the key to access my open space office. It consisted of a humble desk that was once used to place on it the coffee machine, sugar and cups, etc and a broken chair that was dangerously tilting to one side plus an unclean old phone set with a hand receiver that needed sterilization from the awful odour smell of morning breath. So, I decided to go upstairs and waited momentarily at the Ambassador’s Secretary’s Office until someone came along with a key to open the door to the second floor and allowed me to go to my desk.
Few minutes later, we heard the main front door open and slow moving footsteps climbing the staircase. The sound of the winter boots was shovelling along toward the secretary’s office. It was His Excellency, the blessed Book Keeper Diplomat. As he saw me, his face suddenly became alert with a strange look other than his usual drooling facial features and a melting moustache that desperately needed proper trim. Intentionally or unintentionally, he did not return my greeting. He must have had a lot in his mind! His eyes were intensely focused on a pile of Arabic documents (fax messages) placed on top of the secretary’s office inbox desk of which I was totally oblivious.
With his broken English, it sounded like he asked, “Anything for me?” The cheerful efficient secretary promptly pointed her finger to the documents and confirmed the receipt of some fax messages from the Ministry. With a sense of urgency and an outward noticeable intent, the Book Keeper extended his hand and promptly grabbed the messages and started to read them; his eyes were eagerly gobbling on the content; one line to the next.
“That was odd,” I thought to myself, “Why would he be so anxious to receive such messages?” I learned later on that morning that the fax messages were actually sent from the Ministry. Unmistakably, the documents were addressed to THE ATTENTION of the Charge’ d’ Affairs. They contained instructions, signed by His Excellency, the Deputy Minister for Financial Affairs. I learned too that the directives were not agreeable to my joining the local staff of the embassy without the express prior approval of the Ministry. No doubt, the Deputy Minister, who is located at the Ministry premises thousands of miles away from Ottawa was promptly informed by someone at the Ottawa embassy of the Charge’ d’ Affairs’ decision to ask me to assist. At that time, and while there was no Ambassador at the embassy, I understood that it was within the Administrative prerogative powers of His Excellency, the Charge’ d’ Affairs, to hire (or fire), and due to the urgency and pressing importance of the matter, I was asked to follow up on the embassy auto accident file. Had I knew that my temporary appointment would have caused such turmoil and upheaval as well as costly overseas phone calls, I would have opted not to take up the task I was asked to perform.
Because of the special place in my heart for this third-world country, few decades ago, in a British Colony, I felt that I was apparently regarded as a threat to embassy confidentiality and perhaps other important hidden issues. Obviously, my name did not resonate as a faithful or a worthwhile citizen to climb on board, no matter how badly or worldly qualified I may be.
Frictions between North and South brothers at various embassies worldwide-
Evidently, many diplomats and local employees have suffered similar consequences because they do not happen to originate from the northern part of the country of such embassy. In addition, the same Charge’ d’ Affairs suffered a day light robbery of an illegal confiscation of his legitimate real estate property at home at the hands of high level Military personnel while he was being assigned to the Ottawa mission performing his diplomatic duties on behalf of his praiseworthy country! In fact, I understood that when the Charge’ d’ Affairs travelled to his country in an attempt to protect his interest and reclaim his land back, he and his nephew were threatened by military thugs with fire arms pointed at them. His life was obviously in danger and the government watched and did nothing to protect him or his nephew who was acting on his behalf during his absence. The Local media referred to this case as one of demonstrative power without regards to the rule of law if any; blatant intimidation to decent and hard-working citizens as well as property thievery in a land that dishonours proper justice. The law of jungle rules where the powerful clobbers the weak while others watch helplessly.
I would not wish to announce who might have informed the Deputy Minister for Financial Affairs at the honourable ministry about my sudden and temporary appointment to the Ottawa embassy. I am confident however that the informer was aware that I knew who he was; the ill-intentioned human. Not too long ago, the international media reported the defection to the UK of an Ambassador representing that same country to a mission in Libya. It was also reported that the Ambassador was not permitted to perform his diplomatic duties at his designated mission. The report further explained the interference of one of his ill-mannered subordinates, who was posted at the same embassy, in Libya. He was supported by a group of officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at home. It is a general thought, which is widely adopted at different embassies and at the Ministry, of an obvious internal feuds raging between brothers from the North (where the Central Government resides) against brothers from the South, and the vice versa is seemingly true in order to protect their respective position(s). The national interest is therefore ignored and continues to suffer from power hunger, corruption, greed and inefficiency. It is accepted and regarded as normal daily set menu of the diplomatic function. But we are not supposed to utter a word about that.
The fearless Book Keeper diplomat of the Ottawa embassy, supported by high level personnel at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs overseas was yet another shameless faced example of such interference to maintain a firm grip on embassy affairs regardless of the perception of placing the nation’s interest or the already deteriorating international reputation of this country above that of greed and personal interests.
It is no secret that the Ottawa based embassy of this country has already witnessed the recent defection to Canada, as a Refugee Claimant, one of its senior career diplomats along with his entire family members. I believe that others will certainly follow suite unless the higher authority adopted equal and fair treatment of its decent and ordinary citizens serving the country overseas.
This short personal account is the result of less than two full working days at such embassy to which I ask myself, “Do I really wish to have more of the same frustrating daily set menu?” The Answer rings loud and clear; Noop!
Who wants more of the same frustrations?
The question which must be directed to the attention of the authorities in the Middle East, and the top Ministry personnel in particular, who are responsible for such confusion, disrespect, frustration and inefficiency, would be as follows: How much further can this evil obsession of hate amongst brothers be allowed to continue?
It is a shame to note that, with the exception of the above mentioned diplomatic typist at this mission in Ottawa, the others are regrettably poor in communicating in either English or French. I wonder who is responsible to appoint diplomats or local staff to an important mission such as Ottawa or any other western English / French or otherwise missions. No doubt, millions of budgeted dollars are wasted and misused to maintain such a vital mission. I wonder too how these diplomats interact with other diplomats or local officials in English or French when they could hardly construct one good spoken or written sentence!
It is also worth noting that because of my follow up effort, the embassy was sufficiently and promptly compensated with $72,000 by the Auto Insurance Company which I followed up with. I was deprived to receive a penny for the work I performed. I recommended the purchase of a Black coloured Mercedes which was purchased for His Excellency, the newly appointed Ambassador.
To conclude, I am proud to be a citizen of this great country called Canada. I enjoy the equal rights and privileges of any other Canadian Citizen. Obviously and regrettably this concerned country is too far away from having their own (third-world) citizens enjoy similar rights and privileges at their respective countries or embassies. I wonder how many centuries will it take to achieve a more accountable personal prominence above greed, hate and personal interests?
Yes, I affirm that: the power of pen is sharper than the edge of sword!
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