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Diani Chan and the recommendation to terminate Forest Officer Daniel Chi – A blunder in the making for the Government of Belize

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Posted: Friday, June 24, 2022. 1:05 pm CST.

By Hugh O’Brien: It is common knowledge now that there was an incident involving Forest Officer Daniel Chi and Prime Minister John Briceno over ornamental plants being imported by entrepreneur Diani Chan. As a former senior public officer and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), I consider Daniel Chi’s behaviour of putting down the phone on the Prime Minister as unacceptable and it would have attracted a strong written warning, and yes, even a suspension.  The disciplinary measure could have gone as far as to note that a repeat of like behaviour, not only to the PM but to the public in general, could warrant a recommendation for termination. Too often public officers treat the public like they are not citizens of Belize, and it is this kind of behaviour by senior officers that can easily serve as a bad example and be emulated by younger public officers, and sooner or later becomes the culture of the public service.

Daniel Chi’s decision of insisting on forestry import permits for plants being imported into Belize was out of order as there is no law in Belize that requires a forestry permit for importing ornamental plants, only a Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA) permit is needed. So to a large extent the Prime Minister was right, and Daniel Chi was mostly wrong. I will not delve into this further as this is a highly technical matter and I would not want to expose the cards that the agriculture and forestry departments can use, and have used, to restrict the entry of certain plants into Belize.

The fact that the Prime Minister of Belize, John Briceno, was ‘disrespected’, and that this matter has been vindicated all over the press, has brought some undue pressure for further disciplinary action against Daniel Chi, and the powers that be feel the need to act, and to do so more severely. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in charge of the Forestry Department, Dr. Kenrick Williams am sure has come under significant pressure to take further action. What ended up being the result – a recommendation by Dr. Williams to the Public Services Commission to terminate Daniel Chi for his action.

Based on my experience with disciplining, firing or terminating open vote and permanently established personnel in the public service, it is my belief that CEO Williams, was pressured to recommend the termination of Daniel Chi, and if he was not pressured then he made a serious error in judgement. Daniel Chi’s action is not an infraction major enough to warrant termination, unless this is a pattern of behaviour and there is a long trail of other infractions in his file.

Am hoping that the Public Services Commission will not approve the termination of Daniel Chi. If the termination is not approved, am hoping that Daniel Chi, the Forestry Department and the public service in general use this situation as a learning experience and work diligently to provide better, more reliable and more friendly service to the public at large.

If the Public Services Commission approves the termination, it is my belief that a major blunder will be made by the Government of Belize, and that if Daniel Chi seeks legal advice that he will prevail as his misdemeanor, while not a very minor infraction, is not major enough to warrant the termination of his services.

Me seh…Let good objective judgement prevail.

 

 

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