Ambassador John Nielsen: ” I will never be able to fill out Peter’s footprint.”
Today I hand over this blog to John Nielsen, Danish Ambassador to Yangon, and his farewell speech to our friend Peter Lysholt Hansen. Family and friends from all over the world paid their respects to this formidable man.
Family and friends
It is still difficult to grasp that Peter is not here anymore. Just a few months ago he was still vivid, energetic and good humored as always. Filling the rooms where he entered, sharing his visions and thoughts so everybody understood it. It’s tragic and unfair that he is not able to enjoy his retirement in his newly built house in Long Bien together with you – Lien and Khoi.
Peter was a very good colleague and friend of mine for more than twenty years. He was one of my mentor, when I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I owe him a lot and learned a lot from working with him.
Farewells from the family in Denmark
He was a tremendous asset for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the countries he served in. He worked 24/7 to make a difference. For Denmark, but not least for the people in the countries, where he was posted. In whatever position he was put in, he always managed to show substantial results and represent Danish values.
He could be very stubborn when he pursued his objectives and never ever turned away from a dispute. He met people eye to eye, at all levels and always got his message across, whether he was with people in the countryside or with a minister.
He fought hard for justice and freedom of speech in the countries he served in. His last professional challenge was his defense for two jailed Reuter journalists in Myanmar.
Peter loved to get out of the office and to visit projects in the countryside and talk to farmers, labourers, students – people from all walks of life. He often conveyed messages from these meetings to ministers or highlevel officials and asked them to take action if he had noticed any injustice.
Lien and Khoi saying the final goodbye to Peter
He was innovative and never afraid of trying out new ideas. I worked very closely with him on the decentralization of the Danish development cooperation. Many may have forgotten today that this was the most comprehensive reform of Danish development Aid and Peter was one of the main architects of this reform. He set the direction and managed to devolve responsibilities to the Embassies against a lot of internal resistance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has lost a leader by example, a charismatic and sometimes undiplomatic diplomat, who made a difference.
Peters last wish was to have his ashes strewn in Hanoi’s Red River
I have had the honour to follow in Peters footsteps first in Vietnam and recently in Myanmar. And I must say, that although my feets are bigger than his, I will never be able to fill out his gigantic footprint. Peter left behind him, both here in Vietnam and in Myanmar, impressive results and fond memories for many people. The staff at the Embassies in Vietnam and Myanmar were proud of working for him, occasionately also arguing over ideas with him, but always with good humor.
Personally, I will miss the many times we met privately. Peter always greeted me with the words “hva’ så” or what’s going on. On these occasions we sat down for many hours with coffee or a glass of wine and reviewed the situation in the world, in Denmark and not least gossiping about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and common friends. I will remember his sharp analysis, an analysis which was always accompanied with laughter and good humor.
We often talked about our joint passion for Vietnam, the fantastic Vietnamese people but also about our families. I had hoped to continue our encounters here in Peters beloved Hanoi or in Myanmar. Now I will keep the memories and content of these talks for myself as they are certainly not suitable for others!
Qui came to pay his respects – he was the Ambassador’s driver during Peter’s tenure at the Danish Embassy in Hanoi.
I also came to know Lien and Khoi through these conversations and felt how happy and proud he was when he talked about you. As I got to know you both, I understoodwhy. Peter and Lien wasa power couple with tremendousenergy in the diplomatic circles in Hanoi, Seoul and Yangon. Always filling the room with good humor. And Khoi matured in school and in size and is todaya young man.
Lien and Peter took both very good care of Charlotte and me, when we visited Vietnam in 2010. Charlotte still tells the story of how you, Lien, drove her around in the narrow streets of Hanoi on a motorbike. She is still trembling, I believe.
Lien, you have lost a fantastic husband, whom you made very happy. I hope you will keep the good memories of Peter and you know you have a lot of friends in Myanmar and Hanoi, who will want to see you and always be there for you.
Khoi, you have lost a father, who adored you and was so proud of you. I always noticed how happy Peter was, when I saw you together. He was also very ambitious on your behalf and really wanted to give you the best he could.
After 45 years in the Foreign Service, with 28 years in 8 different countries, Peter was about to retire. I had hoped to see him in Hanoi on his morning trips looking for his favorite pho bo, or riding his motorbike through the streets of Hanoi, with Lien at the back. Sadly, this is not going to happen, but I will keep the memories of an outstanding personality and good friend.
Today, let’s talk about Peter, share good moments.He would have wanted us all to keep our heads up and look forward even in this difficult moment. Let us remember him as the loving husband and father he was, but also for his hard work for the poor, his tremendous energy,innovation and good humor.
Finally, I would like, on behalf of his colleagues at the Embassy in Myanmar, the staff at the Nordic House in Myanmar, and hundreds of people in Yangon to convey our heartfelt condolences to Lien, Khoi, the family in Vietnam and his daughters Mia, Christine and Sarah in Denmark.
Lets all honor Peter with a minute of silence!
Xin cam on