17 Mar 2004

SPREP refuses comment after staff sacking

5:14 am on 17 March 2004

The Samoa-based regional environment organisation SPREP has refused all comment about the sacking of two women who accused its director-general, Asterio Takesy, of harassment.

The two women - a Cook Islands-born New Zealander and a Samoan - allege that Mr Takesy claimed that under his diplomatic immunity, he could ask them to resign without stating a reason.

Olinda Woodroffe, the Auckland-based lawyer acting for one of the women, says Mr Takesy, who is from the Federated States of Micronesia, has breached Samoan law and abused his diplomatic status.

"The person who is holding immunity or asserting immunity must know and respect the law of the host country."

Olinda Woodroffe says she has raised the matter with the governments of Samoa, the Cook Islands and New Zealand.

In a leaked staff memo, Mr Takesy says he terminated the women's employment because of changing business needs and after taking into account the views of staff, member countries and donors.