Former Justice DG Dorosday Watson Kenneth. Photo – Hilaire Bule

The Supreme Court in Port Vila has ordered the Government of Vanuatu, through the Public Service Commission (PSC), to pay the outstanding entitlements of VT34,102,451 to the former Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MOJCS), Dorosday Kenneth Watson, for unjustified termination.

In the verdict, Supreme Court Judge Viran Molisa Trief said that the judgment is entered for the Claimant in Civil Case No.21/3889, Mrs. Watson, and the Defendant is the PSC. Justice Trief awarded her a four times multiplier of her severance allowance in terms of the Employment Act in the sum of VT16,591,744. She ordered that the Defendant pay the claimant the following outstanding entitlements and the four times multiplier of the severance allowance in the total sum of VT34,102,451.

The entitlements include her remaining salary of VT8,908,720; salary increment of VT591,318; annual leave of VT513,450; accommodation of VT920,000 and establishment allowance of VT40,000; Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) contributions of VT830,202; other expenses of VT57,407; three months notice of VT1,051,674; and severance allowance of VT4,237,936.

Justice Trief ordered that the interest is to be paid on the judgment sum at the rate of 5% per annum from March 18, 2021, until fully paid, and the costs must follow the event. She also ordered that the Defendant is to pay the Claimant’s costs on the standard basis as agreed or taxed by the Master. Once set, the costs are to be paid within 21 days.

Mrs. Watson as the first female DG of the country was appointed by PSC as the DG to the MOJCS for a term of four years. She had served in the public service since 1987 and had served as Director of the Department of Fisheries, Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Director of the Department of Women’s Affairs.

In November 2018, she signed a contract with PSC to become the DG to the MOJCS. On July 30, 2020, in his official speech to mark the 40th independence anniversary, then Prime Minister Bob Loughman announced that one of the government priorities was to create a new Ministry of Fisheries, Ocean and Maritime Affairs.

On November 15, 2020, the Council of Ministers (COM) approved, during its meeting at Lakatoro on Malekula, the restructuring of the MOJCS into a Ministry of Fisheries, Ocean, and Maritime Affairs. On November 27, 2020, Mrs. Watson sought and obtained orders staying the decision of COM. On December 1, then Minister of Justice and Community Services, Esmon Saimon, lodged a complaint about Mrs. Watson to the PSC, accusing her of rebelling and working against the government.

Following the complaints of the minister, PSC terminated Mrs. Watson’s contract, but she challenged it in court on the basis of unjustified termination, and the court granted her application. Mrs. Watson was represented in court by Mr. Mark Hurley of Hurley Lawyers. Justice Trief delivered her verdict on Mrs. Watson’s case on March 17, 2023.