Thu, Aug 22, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers cancel Central America trip

COSTLY OUTING:The delegation was to take part in conferences under the regional parliament, but the organization is asking for US$28m in dues and another US$22m

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

A scheduled trip by lawmakers to Nicaragua to participate in conferences under the auspices of the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) this week was canceled due to concerns over demands for sizable aid proposals, sources said yesterday.

The legislative delegation was organized by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and comprised four or five lawmakers who have acted as the nation’s representatives to the PARLACEN, at which Taiwan is a permanent observer.

Sources familiar with the matter said the trip was called off because the request that Taiwan offer a donation of up to US$50 million to the regional parliamentary entity could be raised again to the delegation.

Among the donation requests were US$28 million as annual dues of US$2 million over the past 14 years since Taiwan became a permanent observer of the organization in 1999 and US$22 million to be used for the construction of its new head office in Guatemala City, sources said.

The PARLACEN is the regional and permanent organ of political and democratic representation for the System of Central American Integration (SICA), the institutional framework of regional integration in Central America established in 1991, whose membership includes all seven nations of Central America, plus the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.

Except for Costa Rica, which ended a 63-year relationship with Taiwan in June 2007 and switched recognition to the People’s Republic of China, all the other member states of the SICA are the nation’s diplomatic allies.

It was not until the past two years that Taiwan was asked by the PARLACEN to pay the annual dues, sources said.

If the delegation attends the conferences, they might face an awkward situation when asked about Taiwan’s position on the donation requests because the government has reservations about the proposals, sources said.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), a member of the delegation, yesterday expressed approval of the cancelation of the trip.

Given President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policy of maintaining a diplomatic truce with China, it would be pointless for Taiwan to answer the demands, Tsai said.

Tsai said he doubted that other countries that have the same status at the PARLACEN were asked to backpay annual dues, adding that the request for payment of the dues made to Taiwan was “checkbook diplomacy” in disguise.

Jaime Wu (吳進木), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, downplayed the issue.

The cancelation of the trip was the result of “a number of reasons,” including having too little time to prepare for the trip, Wu said.

Wu confirmed that the PARLACEN has brought up the issue of annual dues payments to Taiwan, but said the problem was that “there was a lack of consensus among permanent observers” of the organization on the matter.

Other permanent observers were asked to make the payments, Wu said.

The status of permanent observer is also held by countries, including Mexico and Venezuela, among others, the PARLACEN said.

Wu said that Ambassador to Nicaragua Adolfo Sun (孫大成) would attend the conferences on behalf of the country, in line with precedents.

The conferences are high-level events scheduled from Sunday to Aug. 30 on issues related to women in development, political parties and tourism. Heads of state, deputy heads-of-state and parliamentarians from the region are expected to be present.

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