Saturday 17 August, 2019

Taiwanese President praises special friendship with St Lucia

The President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Her Excellency Tsai Ing-wen has extended a heartfelt thank you to St Lucia for allowing her the opportunity to visit to mark 40 years of independence.

At the Joint Sitting of Parliament today (July 18),  she thanked Prime Minister Allen Chastanet for inviting her to Saint Lucia "to share this special moment" and said it was "an honour to be surrounded by so many old friends, so far away from home".

On the last leg of her diplomatic tour in the Caribbean, Her Excellency revealed: "Saint Lucia has long been a staunch ally in the Caribbean. Prime Minister Chastanet forcefully spoke up for Taiwan at last year's United Nations General Assembly. And Minister of Health and Wellness Isaac made Taiwan's voice heard at this year's World Health Assembly. I want to thank all of you for your courageous support.

"On behalf of the people of Taiwan, I thank you all. Your support means much more to us than you would know, and I hope you will continue to stand by us. Taiwan has much more to contribute, and we are determined to make this known to the world."

Her Excellency chose the themes of freedom, democracy, and sustainability for her state visit to St Lucia "because these three values truly reflect our efforts in the Caribbean".

She added: "We are dedicated to steadfast diplomacy, and mutual assistance for mutual benefits. With partners like Saint Lucia by our side, we can help advance regional peace and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"Over the past decade, our countries have undertaken many projects that embody the spirit of the SDGs. Together, we are ensuring health and wellness for people of all ages. Taiwan has always been more than willing to share our medical and public health expertise and we are putting this willingness into action right here in Saint Lucia, strengthening your healthcare system through mutual sharing and assistance."

Her Excellency accompanied Prime Minister Chastanet to the groundbreaking ceremony for the new St Jude Hospital on Wednesday, a development she described as "yet another important milestone in our many years of medical cooperation". 

She added: "I am proud that Taiwan is able to take part in this achievement. Beyond health, we have also worked to pursue sustainable agriculture. In 2013, we initiated a project that successfully tackled Black Sigatoka disease in Saint Lucia. Banana farmers now enjoy increased productivity, new international markets, and high profits. Today, Saint Lucia is the only country in the Eastern Caribbean exporting bananas to the European market.

"Our cooperation in agricultural development resonates with the work of William Arthur Lewis, Saint Lucian economist and Nobel Prize winner, who dedicated much of his work to ending rural poverty.

"We have made great efforts together in ICT as well. Internet infrastructure is vital for providing efficient government services and narrowing the digital divide. It makes it easier for people to get education, to find a job, and to do business. And of course, reducing inequality is at the core of the SDGs."

Later today there will be a ceremony to launch the second phase of the Government Island-wide Network, designed to further broaden Internet access across St Lucia.

Her Excellency added: "Public infrastructure is the foundation for sustainable development in any country, and this year we have initiated many major projects. In addition to the St. Jude Hospital, we have also begun work on the International Airport, as well as a national road system.

"These projects do more than build resilient infrastructure. They also create high-quality jobs. That is also an important element of the SDGs. While project loans will come from Taiwanese banks, the work will be contracted to Saint Lucia's companies through Taiwan's Overseas Engineering & Construction Company. This means we will be hiring local workers and using local materials.

"This model of cooperation ensures that both our peoples can participate and reap the benefits. There will be no issue of "debt traps," unlike some other cooperation models. We believe in mutually beneficial projects rooted in strong communication and collaboration."

She stressed that both Taiwan and St Lucia want to provide brighter futures for the next generation, in line with the SDG goals to provide equitable, quality education. And she revealed that Taiwan is "honoured" to help young Saint Lucians develop professional skills and expertise through scholarship programs and vocational training.

Concluding her Parliamentary address, she added: "Taiwan and Saint Lucia are small countries, and we both face challenges brought about by geography, access to resources, and climate change. Yet we have both walked the long road to democratization. We respect the values of human rights and democracy. Our shared journey gives us a duty to work together to achieve regional stability, freedom, and democracy.

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