Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 3 News List

MOFA expects few foreign dignitaries on Double Ten

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu, center, and members of the Bunun Aborigine Loloko chorus make the “Double Ten” sign yesterday to promote a concert that will be held in Taichung on Friday.

PHOTO: LIAO YAO-TUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced yesterday that Guatemala President Alvaro Colom would be the only head of state among the nation’s 23 allies attending the Double Ten national day celebrations on Friday.

The total number of foreign dignitaries joining this year’s celebrations will only be half of the previous year, the ministry said.

With the US presidential election being held on Nov. 4, no US congressional delegation will be coming this year as many congressional members are busy stumping for their candidates back home, the ministry’s Department of North American Affairs said.

The ministry blamed the low turn-out on the presidential inauguration in May, saying this year’s budget and quota for hosting foreign dignitaries had been exhausted for that occasion.

Matthew Lee (李世明), chief of the Department of Protocol, argued that although the number of foreign dignitaries for this week’s festivities was expected to be lower than the previous year, the total number of visiting dignitaries for the full year was likely to exceed last year’s figure.

“If we combine the number of foreign guests attending national day celebrations and the inauguration, it would be much higher than the total last year,” Lee said, overlooking the fact that presidential inaugurations are not an annual affair.

Moreover, the Presidential Office allocates a special budget every four years for the sole purpose of inviting foreign guests to the country.

When asked for a clarification, Lee told the Taipei Times that he was “busy eating lunch” and that the media should refer all the questions to the ministry’s information office.

As the ministry’s protocol chief, Lee also committed a faux pas when he told a group of print media reporters he was “disappointed” that only two television stations showed up at yesterday’s biweekly briefing because “he was amply prepared” to face the media.

This year, 31 officials from Guatemala, St. Christopher and Nevis, Gambia and Honduras will attend the national day celebrations. A total of 140 dignitaries from non-allies such as Kuwait and Palestine will be present.

Last year, former Paraguayan president Nicanor Durate was the only head of state who attended the celebration.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA

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