Thursday, August 18, 2011

Feud rocks PNG Brussels embassy


THE Papua New Guinea embassy in Brussels is embroiled in a bitter feud involving a Belgian national working there and her employer, that threatens to spill into the courts of Belgium, The National reports.
Belgian national Martine-Ghislaine Victoria Chaplin van Camp has complained of sexual harassment, of being locked out of her office and of not being paid for four months, among other things.
Brussels head of mission Ambassador Peter Maginde, in turn, had accused van Camp of blackmail, of removing sensitive documents and the embassy cheque book to her home.
Maginde had engaged a Belgian law firm to assist in reco­vering embassy property.
Whatever the truth of the matter, letters have been sent to the king of Belgium, the Queen of England as the head of state of PNG, the governor-general and the two governments repeating her accusations and making damaging remarks against not just Maginde but the work habits and character of the people of PNG.
According to van Camp, the king of Belgium had directed two of its ministers to attend to the matter.
Yesterday, a senior PNG Foreign Affairs Department officer confirmed that "several correspondence" had been received relating to the matter, adding the department had urged Maginde to resolve it.
In e-mail correspondence with The National, van Camp gave graphic accounts of the sexual harassment which she claimed took place within the embassy precincts.
It got to a stage, she claimed, where she had to stop wearing skirts and had to go into the ambassador's office accompanied by minister Alois Tabereng or third secretary Aileen Boi.
Maginde described her allegations as "absolutely false, without basis of evidence and there is no truth in it".
He said he had engaged a law firm to sue her for defamation and character assassination and to recover PNG government pro­perty.
In a letter to secretary Michael Maue on April 4, van Camp said: "Since Ambassador Peter Maginde seems unwilling to understand his obligations in respect of the legislation of his hosting country – despite the several reminders from the protocol of the ministry of foreign affairs to backpay my salaries and social security payments, as much as to provide local staff with legal contracts and their due social benefit payments – his Majesty Albert II, king of Belgium, has requested two of his state ministers to take this matter into their hands."
Van Camp confirmed she had taken her administrative work home as her office door lock was changed and she could not access her office and she could not continue because of the harassment.
Maginde responded this week by accusing her of trying to blackmail the embassy.
He said between April and May last year, she was informed that her performance level was not to "our expectations and she was taking many days off so we warned her to improve and comply with all the required instructions".
In the end, he said the situation was untenable and her employ­ment was terminated.
Maginde said: "She is almost 60 years of age and she claims that, due to her age, the embassy is responsible to employ her.
"We have said that is not pos­sible and, thus, have termi­nated her (employment) officially as of January but legally-effected as of April 2011 due to the three months' notice under the Belgian laws.
"She has been paid all her entitlements and benefits due under law.
"She says that if we terminate her, she would destroy me so that is her intention for the emails to everywhere and everybody."
He said the Belgian foreign affairs had been briefed and had asked her to return all government documents and financial accounts including cheque books.

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