Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Donation to Panama not checkbook diplomacy: Yeh

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday that Taiwan's donation of US$5 million to Panama was part of a bilateral humanitarian cooperation program and not an example of checkbook diplomacy as claimed in a local newspaper.

Yeh Fei-bi (葉非比) , vice director general of MOFA's Department of Information and Cultural Affairs, said the donation to the Panamanian first lady's office was announced in an open ceremony on Jan. 17.

She was responding to reports by the Chinese-language China Times, which quoted La Prensa, a Panamanian newspaper, as saying that Taiwan's Ambassador, Hou Ping-fu (侯平福), had donated the sum to the office of first lady Vivian Ferenandez de Torrijos via Panamanian First Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro on Jan. 17, one week after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Panamanian President Martin Torrijos Espino met at the inauguration ceremony of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Jan. 10.

Following La Prensa's report, the Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated on Wednesday that the donation ceremony was held openly, but was not widely known about until it was reported in the press.

HUMANITARIAN AID

Yeh stressed that the donation was part of a humanitarian cooperation program between the two nations.

The donation was intended for a charity project presided over by the first lady's office, chiefly to help establish easily accessible facilities for the disabled and provide them with vocational training and counselling.

Yeh noted that the first lady's office had said that the donation would not be managed by the office, but rather by a bureau responsible for the nation's physically challenged under the Presidential Office.

She noted that Lewis, while accepting the donation in a ceremony on Jan. 17, said that the money would be channeled into the nation's coffers in an efficient and transparent way.

The management will be subject to the supervision of an auditing agency and Taiwan had no need to worry that the funds would end up lining the pockets of certain individuals, Yeh said.

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