Sunday, November 13, 2005

Those familiar concepts

The Sunday Telegraph has picked up a story my colleague wrote about back in September, though, to be fair, he found it in the Financial Times Observer column. Presumably, because the Commission official was not named in the original story, Justin Stares in Brussels has decided that these are two separate people. Or, maybe, he simply does not read any other newspaper, let alone any blog.

Still, the story does bear repeating, reminding us as it does of past accusations issued against whistle blowers by the Commission and those of us with longer memory of the way the dear departed Soviet Union used to deal with dissidents.

It seems that Jose Sequeira, a Portuguese career diplomat, who has been working in the Commission’s ministry for development (what on earth is that?) has found, to his surprise, that there are entries in his personnel notes which said that his behaviour “sowed doubt regarding the state of his mental health”. Well, not creeping schizophrenia, at least, so beloved by Soviet psychiatrists.

What was this behaviour, one asks oneself? Or, rather, one asks the Commission? According to the Telegraph article
“He was put on permanent sick leave after tests found he suffered "verbal hyper-productivity" and a "lack of conceptual content" in his speech.”
And there I was thinking that those were absolute prerequisites for getting a job with the Commission. They certainly are if you want to be the Commissar for Truth and Reconciliation. Just read the fragrant Margot’s blog if you do not believe me. A clearer case of verbal hyper-productivity and lack of conceptual content I have yet to see.

It seems that Mr Sequeira was offered early retirement, which he refused. Now early retirement, especially if it is in any way enforced, is expensive business with the Commission. The pay-off and subsequent perks are extremely generous, unless, of course, you can prove that something is wrong with the early retiree.

Mr Sequeira tells an extraordinary tale:
“They offered me early retirement in February 2004 and I refused. The medical service then began to call me straight away asking me to come in for consultations, which I thought was strange. A month later I received notice that I had been placed on compulsory medical leave for psychiatric reasons but told that the commission would drop the issue if I agreed to early retirement.

I protested, and a few days later the doctor came to my desk with security guards to physically remove me from my building. There is a system of psychiatric trials in place in the commission and I am a victim. I am not the only one, but the first to decide to fight the system.”
It is that “I am not the only one” that sends shivers down one’s spine. How many more and who are they? Of course, we know that Martha Andreasen, Paul van Buitenen and Bernard Connolly were all described as unstable and having pasychiatric problems after they revealed various unsavoury aspects of the project.

It seems that Mr Sequeira found himself in that company quite by accident. According to him,
“… his relationship with his superiors soured when they became wrongly convinced that he was planning to blow the whistle on an internal fraud scandal. He says that he had no knowledge of any fraud, but that he then fell victim to a campaign to discredit him.”
Mr Sequeira has had himself examined by four psychiatrists in an attempt to prove himself sane and is taking the Commission to court. His case is being championed by Paul van Buitenen, who knows a thing or two about dirty games played by the Commission.

One or two other people have surfaced with stories of how they were threatened with psychiatric reports if they did not take early retirement when it was suggested to them. For once the word Kafkaesque, so often misused, would be applied accurately.

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