Vanuatu’s Honorary Consul to The Netherlands, Elizabeth van Vliet and her husband, Ronald Jonker have just returned to Europe over the weekend with lots of interesting facts to promote Vanuatu to Europeans to come to visit.
Coming from the Netherlands to Vanuatu and going to the small islands is am attempt by the couple to “discover what Vanuatu is all about”.
Asked if they have found out what they were looking for, Consul Vliet replies, “Yes I think so and we want to see more”.
Whether it is expensive to come to Vanuatu she replies, “Yes it is a bit more expensive and it’s a long trip of more than two days to get here but we love it and it is worth it.
“Normally we take four or five weeks holiday so we have plenty of times here in Vanuatu. We know our friends here in Port Vila so we spend time in Port Vila and sometime in the outer islands; we’ve been to Tanna and Aneitym and we want to see more”.
She says they prefer to visit Port Vila as well as go out to the outer islands to have a balanced understanding of life in the country.
“We want to know about the country to be able to tell our friends back home in Europe, to promote the country and encourage more Europeans to come”, she says.
Jonker explains, “We want to see and understand what the needs are concerning water and the impact of climate change in the outer islands”.
Despite coming from an indusralised country, they deny finding life concerning food and accommodation in the islands a “challenge”.
“We love to stay in a bamboo bungalow and we don’t mind a toilet outside our bungalow and using a bucket of water for a shower. That is how people live and we don’t mind that at all”, she continues.
Regarding local food, she says, “We love the local food especially laplap. It’s fresh, it’s nice, it’s healthy so we love it and we have not come across any challenge whatsoever”.
Asked what kind of message they tell their European friends on their return home, Vliet replies, “We tell of really friendly people with great hospitality. It’s safe wherever you go and you don’t have to be afraid of people and people even kiss you on the cheeks even for the first time and yet this is normal for the people.
“They smile at you because it feels good to smile, it is a natural welcome.
“You can just go there, you don’t have to worry, it’s relaxed and it’s also exciting to go on a small aero plane to the airstrips in the islands because in Europe we only travel on big planes.
“It’s a place to discover a whole new world which is very different from our western way of living and thinking mostly. But what I’ve learned most is about my own culture because I learn the culture of Vanuatu and discover things in my own culture which I don’t realise are important.
“For example that the spirits of your ancestors are important in life, young plants, in trees, in mountains. I discover that it is similar in our western society except that in our society it is more covered and people might find it a bit strange. What I have found out is also common in my society and it is good to see the connection.
“What I have found here in Vanuatu is that people are more connected like in Ambae. I have found that grandparents, uncles and sisters and brothers and sisters have moved to Port Vila to find safety through their families in the Capital”.
She is impressed with the Melanesian connection regardless of what country you come from.
Consul Vliet arrived in the country and had a meeting with her Vanuatu Boss, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ralph Regenvanu.
Asked if she ever felt lost, she replies with a brilliant smile, “No, we know our way around even though this is the first time for us to come to Vanuatu”.
She agrees that when Minister of Justice Ronald Warsal and the Attorney General were in the Netherlands in November of 2016, to attend the State of Parties of the International Criminal Court, she was already the Consul and was on hand to help.
Consul Vliet agrees that Vanuatu will capitalize on the ICC Meeting this December to also raise the human right issue of West Papua, which also comprises many members of the UN to ponder the self-determination case regarding West Papua.
She also explains the phrase Rome Statute that has 124 member countries which are mandated to make international laws based on humanity. Currently they have made four laws concerning war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against oppression and genocide.
These are the four laws in which suspects can be prosecuted and if found guilty, they are jailed in The Hague.
For example former (late) Serbian dictator Milosevic (deceased) and Charles Taylor of Sierra Leone have been found guilty and jailed for their crimes in The Hague.