Thu, Jan 03, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Ministry to appoint first Aboriginal ambassador

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official yesterday confirmed a report that Taiwan would soon have its first Aboriginal ambassador.

The ministry is planning to select an Aborigine to serve as the nation's representative to Fiji, ministry spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) said, declining to name any candidates.

Yeh made the remarks in a phone interview with the Taipei Times after being asked for comment on a report by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) yesterday.

The Liberty Times reported that Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) said that an Aboriginal ambassador would be named soon, while accompanying ambassadors from various countries to a traditional Puyuma festival in Taitung on Tuesday.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has approved the decision, the report said.

"I believe the minister has someone in mind already, but he would rather not say who at this point," Yeh said yesterday.

"The ideal candidate we're looking for is someone who is an Aborigine and has certain experience in dealing with foreign affairs," Yeh said.

"Although the ability to speak fluent English would be a plus, it's not a requirement," she said, adding that there was no deadline to appoint a new ambassador.

"A lot of communication and negotiations have to be done before the final candidate can be confirmed" and the process may take some time, she said.

The last ambassador to Fiji, Kuo Shih-nan (郭時南), assumed a new post in Singapore in September and the vacancy has not been filled.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩) -- who said she was among the first to propose the idea to President Chen during a meeting earlier this year -- welcomed the move yesterday.

Chen Ying is an Aborigine of the Puyuma tribe.

"I would be happy to see the plan become reality," she told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview.

"After all, Aborigines in Taiwan and peoples of Pacific islands share similar cultural heritage and blood" and thus have a special rapport with the nation's Pacific allies, she said.

She also expressed interest in the position.

"I would be very glad to take the position if they ask me to," she said.

Also See: MOFA eyes minor reshuffle of staff abroad

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