Top UN Pacific official told to leave Fiji amid ‘harassment’ allegations

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UN's Sanaka Samarasinha
UN's Sanaka Samarasinha . . . "deeply disturbed" by the allegations against him. Image: UN/RNZ Pacific

By Kelvin Anthony, RNZ Pacific lead digital and social media journalist

Allegations of sexual harassment have emerged in the case of a senior United Nations manager at the Fiji multi-county office who has been put on “administrative leave” after complaints of “unsatisfactory behaviour”.

On Thursday, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office to Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu confirmed to RNZ Pacific that Sanaka Samarasinha had been temporarily stood down to facilitate investigations.

The UN office said the complaints against Samarasinha were “being taken very seriously” but did not provide further details.

RNZ Pacific understands the complaints against Samarasinha allege sexual harassment and one complainant has also alleged Samarasinha asked them to delete all electronic communications they had with him, claiming it undermineD the investigations process.

It is understood that one of the complaints against Samarasinha is that in February, at a formal diplomatic function held at the New Zealand High Commission in Suva, he made sexual advances against the complainant while in a drunken state.

RNZ Pacific also understands that Samarasinha’s electronic devices have been confiscated and he has been asked to leave the country.

RNZ put the allegations to Samarasinha who said he was deeply disturbed by the extremely serious and damaging allegations.

“While I am very keen to respond more fully, UN rules prohibit me from doing so as a staff member. Therefore, please reach out to the UN office,” he said.

Meanwhile, Samarasinha’s term as the resident coordinator has been confirmed to end this year.

The UN office said his replacement has already been selected and expected to be presented to the Fijian government, which is hosting the UN multi-country office.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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