Wed, Jan 11, 2012 - Page 1 News List

MOFA says St Lucia ties firm as rumors fly

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Amid ongoing concerns over the shaky relationship with Saint Lucia, the government will look at the suitability of maintaining its embattled ambassador to the Caribbean country in his post, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

Wu Chin-mu (吳進木), -director-general of the ministry’s Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, said the ministry was “receptive” to whatever views a host government has about Taiwanese representatives to that country.

His comments were a departure from the ministry’s previous stance on friction between Ambassador Tom Chou (周台竹) and the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), which regained power in November.

“We evaluate the suitability of ambassadors and officers stationed overseas regularly and alter their positions in a rotating system, based on length of service and eligibility. Personnel replacements will be made when necessary,” Wu said in response to media inquiries at a regular press briefing.

As to whether the ministry is considering replacing Chou, Wu said the ministry would look into the matter. The SLP has made many complaints against Chou over the years because of alleged interference in the country’s electoral process in favor of the United Workers Party (UWP).

After SLP leader Kenny Anthony was sworn in as prime minister early last month, the ministry said the SLP government had given its assurances that it would continue to maintain relations with Taiwan, as Chou and Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) held talks with Anthony on bilateral cooperation projects.

However, media in St Lucia continued to cast doubts on the relationship between the two countries. The latest report on Sunday quoted Saint Lucia Foreign Minister Alva Baptiste as saying that “within the next few weeks the new St Lucia government will make a definite decision as to whether it wants to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.”

Baptiste made the remarks after talks with Yang, who last week spent four days in the country, the second leg of his journey to attend swearing-in ceremonies for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega yesterday, Guatemalan President Otto Perez on Jan. 14 and Gambian President Yahya J.J. Jammeh on Jan. 19.

“We have articulated our concerns to the Taiwanese foreign minister about the [behavior] of his ambassador during the tenure of the UWP administration, and indicated in no uncertain terms that Mr Chou was too deeply involved in the country’s political affairs,” Baptiste was quoted by local media as saying.

At the press briefing yesterday, Wu said the country’s relationships with Saint Lucia “remain strong.”

“After the election [in November], Anthony had publicly announced that he would maintain relations with Taiwan,” Wu said.

Following Yang’s visit, the relationship between Taiwan and Saint Lucia will continue its steady and fruitful development, Wu said.

Yang twice had cordial meetings with Anthony and had discussions with Governor-General Dame Pearlette Louisy, Saint Lucia’s head of state, as well as ministers in charge of foreign affairs, commerce, tourism, agriculture, education and technology, establishing friendship with the SLP administration, Wu said.

Wu said that diplomatic relations with the 12 countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean that recognize the Republic of China (ROC) are “very stable,” dismissing speculation that some countries may switch ties to China after the elections on Saturday.

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