President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) over the weekend expressed gratitude to residents of the outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu for the sacrifices they have made for the security of Taiwan, calling construction projects on the front-line islands a reward from Taiwan proper.
Ma, who flew to Kinmen on Sunday on a home-stay visit, headed to Matsu earlier in the day to continue his inspection of the outlying islands, which are located closer to China than to Taiwan proper.
Military forces have been stationed on Kinmen and Matsu as Taiwan’s first line of defense against China for decades, since Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) retreated to Taiwan following defeat in the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
“The islands of Kinmen and Matsu have contributed to the safety of Taiwan proper,” Ma said in a message on his Facebook page the previous day.
Although martial law was ended on Taiwan and the Penghu Islands off southwestern Taiwan in 1987, the two front-line islands had to wait four more years to be free of the wartime regulations, Ma said.
“People living on the outlying islands have made a great deal of sacrifices, for which the residents on the main island should be grateful and reward them,”he said.
Ma said that the ongoing construction of a 5.4km long bridge that will connect Kinmen Island (“Big Kinmen”) and Lieyu (烈嶼), or “Little Kinmen,” must be completed as scheduled in June 2016, and that the construction of medical facilities on the outlying islands must not be ignored.
“They are the country’s basic feedback for Kinmen and Matsu,” he said.
In the comment book at the bed and breakfast where he stayed in Kinmen, Ma wrote that Kinmen has transformed itself from a battlefield to an island of peace, from a front-line base in the confrontation between both sides of the Taiwan Strait to a key site for cross-strait exchanges.
“After 60 years of transformation, Kinmen can bear witness to the fact that peace is the absolute principle and that prosperity makes blessed rewards possible,” he said.