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Page added on March 23, 2010

Former Hill & Knowlton employee now working for government

Former Hill & Knowlton employee now working for government thumbnail

A former employee of global public relations agency Hill & Knowlton, which was controversially contracted by the former government to improve its international image, continues to work for the government in its Geneva office.

In a previous interview with Minivan News, Independent MP and former Information Minister Mohamed Nasheed said the PR firm was hired to respond to the allegations of human rights abuses promulgated by the MDP.

He also said that while he believed it had whitewashed some of the activities of the former government, its primary agenda was to encourage the government to show a more democratic face.

The PR company was also criticised for editing the statements on the country’s wikipedia entry critical of the former government, after was caught in the act by data-mining tool Wikiscanner.

Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said there “might be one staff member [from Hill & Knowlton] in Geneva who was hired by the former government.”

“Cancelling the contract was more expensive than continuing it,” Zuhair explained.

He added that this person was probably still doing PR work for the government.

Minivan News contacted the Permanent Mission of the Maldives to the United Nations in Geneva and spoke to the man in question, Mark Limon.

Limon said he finished his work for H&K nine years ago, but could not give any details of his work with the firm or with the former Maldivian government due to contractual clauses.

“I am helping as a local employee [in the Geneva Mission],” Limon said. He added that the rumours of continued links with the PR firm were “absolutely not true. There are no links or contracts at all [between the Maldivian government and Hill & Knowlton].”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed said the rumours of a Hill & Knowlton employee working for the current government were “total rubbish. There is no one from Hill & Knowlton [under the current government].”

He confirmed that Hill & Knowlton was hired by the former government in 2004 and stopped working for them in 2007, he said, noting that there were currently only two foreign nationals working in Maldivian Missions in Europe – one in Brussels and one in Geneva.

Shaheed dismissed rumours the foreign nationals were receiving an extravagant pay checks of up to ₤80,000 a year, saying that they were being paid “competitive rates, comparable to that of an ambassador.”

State Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem said the MDP had been concerned about Hill & Knowlton’s work with the previous government, and the current government had no one from the firm working for them.

To claim otherwise was “a ridiculous suggestion”, he said.

“There are so many people inherited from the previous government. This doesn’t mean they work for Hill & Knowlton,” he said.

Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, spokesman for the former president, confirmed that the former government had terminated its contract with the firm in 2007. Rumours that a Hill & Knowlton employee was still on the government payroll were incorrect, he said.

“The gentleman in Geneva is a former employee of Hill & Knowlton, but is now working for the government,” Mundhu said.

He said Limon “still has all the skills” from his time in Hill & Knowlton and had been “instrumental” in in setting up the Mission in Geneva.

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12 Comments on "Former Hill & Knowlton employee now working for government"

  1. Stem on Tue, 23rd Mar 2010 6:46 PM 

    Mr. Zuhair’s statement imply lack of knowledge on the issue.

  2. Mohamed Hussain on Tue, 23rd Mar 2010 6:59 PM 

    When Dr Shaheed was serving Gayoom, three of our foreign missions (Geneva, Brussels and Washington) were handed over lock stock and barrel, to former Hill and Knowlton employees. Believe it or not, they were made heads of the Maldivian missions.

    Why are we so surprised? What do you expect with Dr Shaheed as the Foreign Minister.

  3. mirus on Tue, 23rd Mar 2010 7:00 PM 

    After all the attack on Hill and Knowlton spin for previous dictatorship – why does this government need people like this to spin for them?? There are better Maldivian ppl to work for this amount of money. Dr Shaheed tell us what these people are being paid in Brusels and Geneva. Lets have transparensy.

  4. Natasha on Tue, 23rd Mar 2010 7:02 PM 

    mark lemon does very good work for government and helps maldives get money from foreigners in aid

  5. Hameed on Tue, 23rd Mar 2010 7:23 PM 

    Why in the world is the Foreign Ministry paying foreigners working at our embassies the same salary as Maldivian ambassadors. Is this because they are white and we are not? Or is it because Foreign Minister Shaheed was the former counterpart of Hill & Knowlton in the Maldives and these guys in Brussels and Geneva were former employees of Hill and Knowlton?

    It is intersting that MDP which was previously so vocal against H&K activities in the Maldives is today employing previous H&K employees to work at our embassies, and the previous H&K counterpart in the Maldives as the Foreigner Minister. Oh how the mighty have fallen!

  6. HassanK on Wed, 24th Mar 2010 1:58 AM 

    I do not see any problem with this guy having once worked for H&K. These are professionals and they carry out their duties professionally. He could work for many different governments and still be the most valued staff for each and every one of them. The current civil servants can learn a lot from this guy. You just have to carry out your duties to the best of your abilities to help deliver the policies, promises and services of the government of the day.

  7. Al on Wed, 24th Mar 2010 2:19 AM 

    Why do we have so many British companies and people doing all sorts of work for us?

    Are we a British protectorate once again?

  8. 80000 on Wed, 24th Mar 2010 3:00 AM 

    In seniority, how could the 80,000 receiving foreigners take orders from Ambassador with peanut salary?

  9. same boat... on Wed, 24th Mar 2010 4:43 AM 

    hi mdp Govt…follow the ‘dictatorsip’ of 30yrs n learn to become a better dictator in 5yrs ..

  10. Mohamed Hussain on Wed, 24th Mar 2010 1:09 PM 

    HassanK, the former H&K guy maybe a professional. But nowhere in the world is a foreigner employed as a diplomat. Lemon was not only made a diplomat but was earlier employed as the Head of Mission by Dr Shaheed. Such practice is unheard of, except in very rare instances. We are an independent and sovereign nation and should be represented overease by a Maldivian. I guess if the likes of Shaheed and Nasheed have their way, we will probably end up with foreigners as head of the army, police, parliament, legislature and as cabinet ministers as well.

  11. salee on Wed, 24th Mar 2010 7:11 PM 

    Why do we need people from H&K to do the spinning for us when people like Zuhair from President’s Office are spin doctors themselves. Zuhair’s comments that Limon has the job because “cancelling the contract is more expensive than keeping it”, is bullshit. It was in 2009, after the MDP government came to power, that Limon’s contract was renewed. Please don’t try to fool us because you will not succeed!

  12. Ibrahim on Thu, 25th Mar 2010 10:29 AM 

    One of the objectives of MDP manifesto on Foreign Policy is to “Replace all foreign nationals appointed to the diplomatic posts in all Maldivian missions abroad by local carrier Foreign Service Officials.”

    It is ironic that when the policy is clearly stated in black and white in the MDP manifesto, just recently 3 years contracts have been renewed to two ex-H&K persons based in Geneva and Brussels.

    Well, none should be surprised by this move by Dr. Shaheed , as first of all they have been appointed by Dr. Shaeed as Foreign Minister in Gayoom regime.

    Now their contracts have been renewed by Dr. Shaeed as Foreign Minister in MDP government. One could say only Dr. Shaheed colour may have changed, not his policies and his cronies.


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