Female VNPF staff were hesitant to report alleged misconduct by the General Manager to the disciplinary committee because it was headed by the GM himself, the Supreme Court heard yesterday.

Melisa Yova, the first witness on the third day of the trial of the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) General Manager, Parmod Achary, said she was aware that the VNPF had a disciplinary committee.

However at that time when the misconduct was occurring, she had ‘to go directly to the GM to report the incident’.

Recounting the incident, Yova testified that Mr. Achary had approached her from behind one morning while she was sitting at her desk with her back facing the door.

She said he had allegedly begun massaging her shoulders, then later proceeded to massage down her chest towards her breasts, to which she leaned forward in an attempt to free herself from the GM’s hands.

Ms. Yova said that her team leader had witnessed this incident and had advised her to confront Mr. Achary about it if she felt uncomfortable.

But she stated that ‘him being my boss, I was afraid to say anything’.

GM Achary’s lawyer, Mark Hurley asked her if she misjudged the conduct as it could’ve been just a gesture by the GM to her, such as a pat expressing a job well done.

Ms. Yova firmly asserted that there is a big difference between a pat, and a massage.

“You could feel that your personal space was being invaded,” she added.

Mr. Hurley argued that the evidence presented by Ms. Yova was incorrect as there was no way Mr. Achary could have approached her from behind without her noticing.

He said that the door to the section of the office in which her desk was located was at the side where Ms. Yova could clearly see Mr. Achary coming in.

Mr. Hurley presented a sketch to support his argument, comparing it to the one Ms Yova had initially drawn of the incident’s location, and opposed Ms. Yova’s recollection of how the incident had occurred.

Ms. Yova stated that she was sure the location of where the incident had occurred as she had sketched it.

Hurley also argued that in the police statement made by Ms. Yova dated December 23, 2021, there was no reference to the alleged misconduct.

When asked in court why she did not include this in her statement, Ms. Yova said that there was no particular reason why she did not include this.

She added that during that time, she did not know how to approach the matter with the police, so therefore she did not file a police report sooner.

Yova submitted her resignation in 2021 and is no longer an employee of VNPF.

The trial is continuing.