Director of Foreign Affairs, Yvon Basil, has confirmed that Vanuatu’s Ambassador in Europe, John Licht, is critically ill and has been admitted into a hospital in Brussels, Belgium.
Mr Basil says the government is awaiting a report from doctors in Brussels.
“As soon as we get a report from the doctors and from this end, we would assist our Ambassador to help him recover from the illness,” he said.
The Director says the Vanuatu Government is obliged to look after its workers posted overseas.
He was then asked if Vanuatu’s diplomats are facing intense work pressure that is affecting them as Vanuatu recently lost a diplomat and another in China recently became sick as well.
Mr Basil says there is no indication (expert opinion) at this stage on why Vanuatu’s diplomats are getting sick but concedes that while the diplomatic posts are in big countries, one of the issues faced is that of the capacity to manage relations between Vanuatu and those particular countries.
“As you know, those are big countries.
“Vanuatu has good relationship with those countries where our missions are based in.
“But in terms of the capacity, in terms of representation in those countries, we only have an ambassador and one or two staff to assist the ambassador in managing our relations with the establishment of the office in those countries.
“So the challenge is for us, with the minimum capacity in terms of the human resource we have, to manage this relationship between Vanuatu and one of the biggest countries like China and in Brussels, where there are 28 countries who are members of the EU (European Union).
“That is something that the government needs to look at.
“We’ve been telling that to the government to see how we could beef-up or strengthen our representation overseas because this is one way we can also bring much-needed support from those countries to help us with our development aspirations.
“So, it is something the government needs to look at, and because there is only one or two of them and work pressure is so heavy over there,” the Director said.
He continued that every day diplomats get to and from work and with COVID-19 issue and other external issues, put a lot of pressure on Vanuatu’s representatives overseas.
The Director emphasized that it is the government’s responsibility to look after Vanuatu’s diplomats.
He says one or two are managing their workload but the rest are facing quite a challenge due to the huge workload.
The Director confirms that Vanuatu’s Diplomat in China, Stuart Maun, was recently sick as well.
The government assisted with medical funds of Vt4 million to assist him with his medical treatment.
Meanwhile, Mr Basil says Ambassador Licht remains in the hospital in Brussels.
While he refrained from giving more details, he assured that the government is closely monitoring the situation as well as that of the Ambassador’s family.
Following the recent loss of Vanuatu’s High Commissioner in New Zealand, the Director says the process will be undertaken soon to appoint a new representative.
There will be advertisements for that position at the end of this month.
“Out of respect we want to wait until at the end of this month before we can put out advertisements for the position before receiving applications, then go through the process as outlined in the Foreign Service Act,” Mr Basil said.