In the wake of the Gambia’s abrupt severing of diplomatic ties with Taiwan, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators yesterday asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) how it intended to retrieve the funds the Gambia and other countries that had severed ties owed the Republic of China.
The Gambia severed diplomatic ties without prior warning on Nov 14, an act that Ambassador to the Gambia Samuel Chen (陳士良) said occurred because Taiwan had refused Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s request for an additional US$10 million in financial aid.
According to Chen’s response during a question-and-answer session at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, Jammeh had asked for the money in a one-time payment and expected Taiwan to comply because “we are brothers.”
DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said that over the years, countries that had severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan accumulated more than US$500 million in debt.
The Gambia owes nearly US$20 million, the Republic of Senegal owes US$3.7 million, Grenada owes US$28 million, the Republic of Macedonia US$72 million, the Republic of Niger US$72 million, the Republic of Costa Rica US$290 million and the Republic of Chad US$30 million.
Tsai said that the ministry must find a way to retrieve the money or other allies would get the wrong impression and think they would not need to return financial aid provided by Taiwan after severing diplomatic ties.
In the report the ministry presented to the committee yesterday, the ministry said that Jammeh, via Gambian Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy, told former ambassador to Gambia Richard Shih (石瑞琦) on Sunday last week that he had requested aid from Taiwan, but had not received it, making him feel that Taiwan was no longer in need of the Gambia’s support.
Jammeh was of the opinion that terminating diplomatic ties with Taiwan would be in the Gambia’s best interest, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said.
“The Gambia had expectations we could not fulfill,” Lin said.
Lin said that the Gambia was not prompted by China to sever ties, but he added that it might have the hope that it can look to Beijing for financial assistance.
“Our current assessment is that China was not involved in the case,” Lin said.
Gambian Secretary-General and Presidential Affairs Minister Momodou Sabally told Taiwan that the Gambia would not establish diplomatic ties with China, he said.
In related news, a report by Agence Africaine de Presse on Monday last week quoted “a source close to Gambia’s Foreign Ministry” as saying that the Gambia has established ties with China and that a statement is to be made in the coming days.