Wed, Apr 08, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Ma mixes up nation’s West African allies

GIFT FOR THE GAFFE The Presidential Office urged the media not to report on the president’s faux pas in referring to Sao Tome and Principe as Burkina Faso

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Ma Ying-jeou, right, shakes hands with Foreign Minister of Sao Tome and Principe Carlos Alberto Pires Tiny at the Presidential Office in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) once again demonstrated his gift for the gaffe yesterday, raising a laugh during his welcome of the foreign minister of Sao Tome and Principe and his wife at the Presidential Office.

In his welcoming speech, Ma hailed Foreign Minister of Sao Tome and Principe Carlos Alberto Pires Tiny as coming from another of Taiwan’s West African allies, Burkina Faso. The blunder drew a round of laughter before Ma realized his mistake and corrected himself.

In a bid to avoid further embarrassment for the president, the Presidential Office asked the media not to report the faux pas. Presidential staffers later said that the laughter had not come from people inside the room, but from outside.

It was not the first time Ma has made a slip-up since he took office in May last year. In August, Ma got the name of a former Japanese governor wrong on two different occasions. In November, the president said during a TV interview that the NT$3,600 consumer vouchers that were issued to the public were worth NT$36,000.

In January, Ma referred to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) as “Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦),” a former Chinese Communist Party secretary-general. When attending the funeral ceremony of a Buddhist monk last month, Ma referred to the deceased by two different names, neither of which was correct.

At a separate event yesterday, Ma praised the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), saying it had contributed to peace in the Taiwan Strait in the 30 years since its enactment.

Ma said he has made efforts to improve relations with China since he took office, and added that his efforts had paid off, as the first signs of peace have appeared in the Taiwan Strait.

“It has a lot to do with the [US’] Taiwan Relations Act and the US government’s dutiful implementation of the law,” he said. “The relationship between Taiwan and the US will not erode, but only strengthen.”

Ma made the remarks while meeting a delegation of US parliamentarians led by Florida Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart at the Presidential Office yesterday.

Describing Washington as an “important ally,” Ma said he was pleased to see the US government and its people maintain economic, cultural and other non-diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

He also thanked the administration of former US president George W. Bush for notifying Congress to approve Taiwan’s arms ­procurement package, saying the purchase was important to the country’s safety and that Washington was obligated to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan based on the TRA.

In the 11 months since he took office, Ma said, the country had restored mutual trust with the US and both Taipei and Washington have made significant efforts to resolve problems.

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