By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — On Friday, president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, became the first Taiwanese president to deliver a speech to a joint sitting of the Saint Lucia parliament. The last foreign political leader invited to address a joint sitting was former South African President Nelson Mandela in 1998.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Pierre said the visit by the Taiwanese head of state from Thursday holds special significance for the friendship shared by the two countries. The opportunity for Ma to address the joint sitting of the house was an expression of the highest regard towards the government and people of Taiwan.
“As you know three of us visited Taiwan. I think the minister for external affairs also visited Taiwan and I am sure many more ministers will visit. The Taiwanese aid will be used in the Constituency Development Programme and all constituencies benefit from that so the relationships are growing and are based on mutual respect for each other and we are very pleased with the way the relationship has been so far,” Pierre said.
Saint Lucia is Ma’s first stop in a 12-day tour of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in the Caribbean tour, and this significant occasion was marked by a celebration and ceremony in downtown Castries as the president made his way to the Parliamentary Chambers.
Members of Parliament on both sides of the House of Assembly, appointed senators, media and specially invited guests were on hand as Ma delivered his address to the nation.
The Taiwanese president highlighted the signing of a joint communiqué between himself and the prime minister of Saint Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony. Ma said the document embodied the collective intention to promote peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity between the sister nations.
“Saint Lucia has a population of 170,000; however, you have one million inbound tourists visiting your great nation every year, which is six times your population. Taiwan has a population of 23 million and we have 7.31 million inbound tourists every year, which is less than one-third of our population. So we believe that we can learn from your successful experience and we hope to get to know the secret to your great success. After my arrival in your esteemed nation, I actually found two answers. The first is Saint Lucia’s natural scenery, which is beautiful and breathtaking; another one is your extraordinarily friendly people. There is another thing I like about your country very much — you have a national anthem which is even shorter than ours. Last, but not least- long live our friendship!” he said.
Ma’s delivery to the House of Assembly resonated messages of peace, cooperation and the pursuit of social and economic stability, not only for Saint Lucia and Taiwan as individual players, but as collaborators on the world stage.
“The idea behind all these efforts lies in the concept that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, which have been struggling with each other for more than 80 years, now it’s time- not to make war — but to make friends and to make peace,” Ma said.