Judge: MSG immune from suit

PORT VILA – The Vanuatu Supreme Court has dismissed a salary claim by Melanesian Spear Head Group (MSG) deputy director general, Molean Kilepak simply because the regional institution is protected by the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act .

MSG and director-general, ambassador Amena Yauvoli who are both claimants of the Civil Case 345 of 2017, were untouchable by the Vanuatu Supreme Court because Vanuatu as the host country of the MSG Secretariat had signed an agreement with the MSG.

Article 5 of the agreement stated that “1. The Secretariat shall be immune from suit and legal process and its premises, archives and property shall be inviolable”.

Supreme Court Judge Richard Chetwynd stated in the judgment that the Host Country (Vanuatu) Agreement specifically refers to the 1963 Vienna Convention on diplomatic privileges.

“Unfortunately, the provisions of the Host Country Agreement mean that the Claimant cannot sue either MSG or Mr Yauvoli in Vanuatu. Both MSG and Mr Yauvoli are immune from suit in Vanuatu.”

Justice Chetwynd disagrees to suggestions that because the appropriate order under the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act was only made in 2015 (by Order 35 of 2015) and because the claimant entered into the employment contract with MSG in 2014, he was not caught by the immunity from suit provision.

“Article 5 of the Host Country Agreement can stand on its own.

“It needs no formal confirmation under the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act.”

“The agreement between the Republic of Vanuatu and the MSG was concluded (at the latest) in January 2013 and applies from that date.

“Whether there was an earlier agreement is irrelevant. If there was a later agreement then it would only be relevant to the extent that it revoked any provision of the 2013 agreement.

“In short the 2013 agreement still applies.

“The end result of my finding that both defendants have immunity from suit in Vanuatu is that the claim cannot possibly succeed and must be and is hereby dismissed.”

Meanwhile the MSG Secretariat has issued a press statement saying the judgement has cleared the institution and director general ambassador Amena Yauvoli of wrong doing.

“This landmark judgement is important not only for the MSG but also for other organisations and missions based in Port Vila, in particular on how the Diplomatic Immunities are to be applied in Vanuatu,” said Ambassador Yauvoli.

In the month of February 2017,Molean Kilepak, the former deputy director general lodged a legal action against the MSG and the DG. The case was highly publicised locally and regionally, a calculated move that was perceived to be politicising the issue and tarnish the name and reputation of the Organisation and the Director General.

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