The bodies of the late Ioan Malas, Bridly Kere and Veta Elten Bong Vantegon – the three ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers who died in a road accident in Australia three weeks ago arrived in Port Vila Tuesday evening on the Air Vanuatu flight from Brisbane.
Family members and relatives from Mele, Ambae and Ambrym were at Bauerfield Airport to receive the bodies.
Also at the airport were the Minister of Internal Affairs, Alfred Maoh, the Australian High Commissioner, Jenny Da Rin and the Acting Commissioner of Labor, John Tasso, and his staff.
Addressing families, relatives and friends gathered to receive the bodies, the Minister of Internal Affairs conveyed the condolences of the government to everyone for the losses. He said it was with a heavy heart that he had to address everyone gathered for such a time.
At the same time, the Minister issued a strong warning that if more seasonal workers were going to be returning home in coffins, he would not hesitate to stop the overseas season work program.
“It is very sad that the men went alive and come back as cargo,” he added.
“We send people to go on the seasonal work program to return alive and help their families and the country socially and economically,” he said adding “But if more people are going to die and come back as cargo, as minister responsible for Iabor mobility, I will not hesitate to stop the program.
“This is a challenge to everyone, going on the program, to change their attitudes, and stop similar future incidents like this.”
The Australian High Commissioner also spoke with a heavy heart and said she and her staff felt for all the families and she also said they were sorry for what happened.
“On behalf of the government of Australia, we offer our condolences to the families and everyone concerned,” she added.
The body of the late Ioan Malas was taken by the family to Mele village where it will be laid to rest at 10 o’clock this morning. The body of the late Bridly Kere of Ambae was taken by the family in Port Vila to Bladiniare for overnight vigil at a family member’s home and taken to the airport at 8.30 this morning to be flown Ambae and taken to his home village of Lolovele for burial. And the body of the late Veta Elten Bong Vantegon of Ambrym has spent last night with family members at Freswota One and will be taken to Bauerfield Airport at 12.30 today and flown to Pekoa, Luganville, Santo and transported to nearby Malo Island for burial.
The three seasonal workers died on the road near Innisfail in Queensland, Australia early Saturday morning, June 24 after the van they were traveling in collided head-on with a semi-trailer. Two other ni-Vanuatu in the vehicle survived the crash and were admitted to Innisfail Hospital. They have been released from the hospital and will soon be returning home.
The Acting Commissioner of Labor says alcohol was a contributing factor and he says the department of labor on behalf of government will stop seasonal workers from buying vehicles from now on. Acting Commissioner Tasso says some ni-Vanuatu on the seasonal worker program put money together and purchase cars because the vehicles are affordable.
“They can drive, but they cannot purchase or own vehicles,” he adds.