Thu, Jan 06, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Don't exclude Taiwan's aid efforts

World leaders are gathering in Jakarta, Indonesia today for a one-day summit to discuss the global relief operation for the South Asian tsunami. Even though Taiwan is a major financial contributor to this effort, it has not been invited to participate in the summit. In response, Taiwan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) urged Indonesia, which was severely stricken by the tsunamis, to allow Taiwan to attend.

Taiwan was reportedly not invited because it is not a member of the UN. If we can reduce such political interference, all members of the global village will be able to better cooperate with one another. Taiwan should call on the UN and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to acknowledge that there is no distinction between nations when it comes to relief operations. After all, we do not know where the next earthquake or tsunami will hit.

Taiwan is a major aid contributor and is also geographically close to the affected region, so the international community should not bar Taiwan's participation in the meeting. As a member of the international community, Taiwan is dutybound to make a contribution to the international disaster relief effort. Members of charitable groups in Taiwan defied cold winter weather to solicit donations in the nation's cities. Yesterday, donations exceeded NT$200 million. But as a member of that international community, Taiwan also has the right to learn from the relief effort.

The Department of Health has called for a team of medical personnel to travel to the disaster-hit region to carry out disease prevention activities, and the government has announced that the national treasury will allocate US$50 million to disaster relief. While Taiwan may be torn by internal political struggles, government and opposition groups are cooperating in the disaster relief effort in an unprecedented manner.

This recent disaster reminds people in Taiwan of the 921 earthquake in 1999, which left central Taiwan in ruins and claimed about 2,070 lives. The work of reconstruction over these past few years has been a valuable experience that can be shared with tsunami-devastated South Asian countries.

According to Kuo Hsu-sung (郭旭崧), Director-General of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in the tsunami-relief effort, Taiwan has met World Health Organization (WHO) specifications for the medical aid that it provided. But as Taiwan is not a WHO member, there are no regular channels for it to provide relief, and it is forced to rely on help from its diplomatic allies to donate medical supplies to people in disaster-hit regions. How insupportable is this feeling of helplessness for the people of Taiwan.

An international disaster relief effort such as this cannot escape political interference, and Taiwan has been deprived not only of the chance to participate in the summit, but also to learn from the experience. Is this not a truly cold-blooded way for the international community to treat Taiwan? During the international SARS epidemic in 2003, all countries were given assistance by the WHO, with the exception of Taiwan, to whom such assistance was denied.

On the day of the summit, we do not wish to speculate on the motives of the organizers, but we truly hope that the question of Taiwan's duty and its right to international participation be resolved, so that Taiwan does not become yet another victim of the Dec. 26 tsunami.

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