On 6th June 2017 Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Poland HE Zenon Kosiniak-Kamysz, took over as the Dean of Singapore’s Diplomatic and Consular Corps from H.E. Jairo Hernandez Milian, Ambassador of Costa Rica. In conversation with Editor–in-Chief of IN Diplomacy, Mrs Nomita Dhar, he shares his thoughts and plans for his tenure as Dean.
Your Excellency, could you please share with our readers the nature of the work handled by the Dean of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps?
For one, it does not matter whether he is a junior or senior ambassador in the diplomatic corps. He is the Dean. This is not a new function. In my understanding the Dean should be the representative of all ambassadors and high commissioners for all official authorities in Singapore. Secondly, the Dean should be also responsible for co-operation within the diplomatic corps itself.
How do you plan to go about your duties during your tenure?
I would like to continue what my predecessor started here. There were many events which were planned. One of the main duties as a Dean is the setting up of farewell parties or lunches for those ambassadors who have completed their missions here in Singapore. So, the first one of these is planned for July 20 as three fellow ambassadors are leaving—these are the representatives of Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium… So we will have a meeting here to say goodbye to our friends. Then we also have some sports events planned by the year end—there are at least three such events on the cards.
This week I will be meeting the Chief of Protocol with whom I would like to raise the matter of the co-operation between the diplomatic corps and the protocol of Singapore. I would like to ask him to share his expectations and in turn I would like to share some of my experiences from the countries where I was posted before— this is my third ambassadorial function and my sixth diplomatic posting; I have had the pleasure of serving in two continents—Europe and America.
This is my first time in Asia. I would like to learn much from here, but would also like to share the experiences and practices in Canada, where I spent four years — as well as those from the many different European countries, where I spent more than 20 years.
What are these practices you would ideally like to be followed here as well? Could you share some of those with us?
Well some of those practices might involve events that cannot be done here, e.g. what we did in Canada, because of the different climate. But I would like to continue all possible sports activities here. Not necessarily all where the diplomatic corps or protocol would be involved – golf for example is already fairly common. There are many other sports activities such as soccer, badminton and even tennis which is very popular.
I would like to start some new activities. We had a very nice tradition in countries where I was posted before —this was the setting up, once a year, of the Diplomatic Ball with performances such as national dances and the like. I think it would be something quite new here… may be held sometime after the New Year and before the preparations for the Chinese New Year – we could do something like that.
In our diplomatic life, we have many opportunities to meet each other as diplomats, and many opportunities to socialise, many of these get togethers are all at a professional level. What’s important I think is sometimes we would like to have some private get-togethers involving our families, our spouses. In my opinion this is an obvious step for further integration — not just between us but also between us and the local community.
You know what I appreciate here in Singapore is the openness of this multi-cultural country. You don’t have any problems getting in touch with the local people—no matter how high the level is—be it an important CEO or businessman, or just your next door neighbour.
I believe some of these events should be dedicated for the local community, not just only for the diplomats. As diplomats our duty is also to understand and engage with the local people in the country where we are posted. So one of the ways is to socialise together—not necessarily at a Diplomatic Ball, but rather events to which we can invite our local Singaporean friends as well.
When I was in Canada we had a huge diplomatic corps made up of about 120 ambassadors, and there was something called the ‘Diplomatic Association’ which was a voluntary affair and provided access to everyone from the ambassador to the third secretary. I was the president of this association and actually we had organised all these events—not the Dean. We arranged activities such as excursions as well as the Diplomatic Ball.
IN Diplomacy has covered the events organized by the spouses of the ambassadors which is a good idea. It’s a good tradition. I remember when I was in Slovakia my wife had more meetings with the wives of the foreign ministers than I did! It was a very efficient group and they were doing some fantastic work—and not just socializing! I would like to encourage something like that here as well.
Tell us how does it work? Is the wife of the Dean the Chair?
When I came here I don’t think the Dean’s wife played that role. But I do recall there was excellent co-operation between the ladies in the corps. While I would enjoy the support of my wife in my capacity as Dean, I feel the ladies in the diplomatic corps should remain independent in their pursuits.