Mark Chen calls on world to let Taiwan take part in summit

EMERGENCY MEETING: Because of the magnitude of the tsunamis that struck the region, politics should take a back seat to compassion, Chen stated

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Jan 05, 2005 - Page 3

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) yesterday called on the international community to let Taiwan join an emergency summit of world leaders due to take place in Jakarta tomorrow, to help rally aid for tsunami-hit countries.

Leaders from ASEAN and other countries are to meet in Indonesia tomorrow to help coordinate relief efforts for the Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy. ASEAN members Indonesia, Burma, Malaysia and Thailand are among nations that have suffered casualties.

The meeting, proposed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍), is expected to discuss international relief efforts as well as the possibility of linking the emergency warning systems of ASEAN member states.

Leaders from China, Japan and Australia, as well as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida Governor Jeb Bush are slated to attend the meeting.

"Taiwan joined relief efforts in Indonesia shortly after the disaster hit and offered a sizable amount of financial aid and other supplies to stricken regions. The Indonesian government approves of our help," Chen said at a news conference.

"Although the meeting is open to UN member states only, I hope that the Indonesian government will recommend that Taiwan be allowed to attend the summit. At least Taiwan should be permitted to participate in the summit as an observer," the minister said.

Chen said relief efforts should not be disrupted by political factors. Tsunamis and diseases strike indiscriminately, "no matter whether a country is a UN member state or not," he said.

"The international community should not prevent Taiwan from joining the disaster relief summit," he said.

While the government's pledge to give US$50 million in financial aid to countries affected by the disaster has made Taiwan one of the world's top 10 aid donors, Chen reported that private donations from the country have exceeded NT$180 million (US$5.65 million).

The ministry also expressed hope that it could attend a UN disaster conference in Geneva on Jan. 11.

So far the public has donated 743 boxes of medical supplies, 3,123 boxes of food and 845 tents for countries afflicted by tsunamis. The ministry has been coordinating the logistics of getting the aid to needy regions, and private container companies will start sending the supplies to stricken countries tomorrow.

Chen hosted an inter-ministerial meeting Monday afternoon to discuss how to use the US$50 million fund for affected countries and set up timetables for short and long-term relief efforts.

The ministry, the Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Administration are the major agencies in charge of the short-term relief efforts, which include sending medical and hygiene teams to regions hit by the disaster to distribute aid.

The long-term plans include the establishment of community medical centers and reconstruction of communities and piers.

Although Taiwan does not maintain official relations with Sri Lanka, one of the worst-hit countries, several non-governmental organizations have dispatched medical and rescue teams to the nation.

The Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps sent a 42-member medical team to Batticoloa, on the east coast of Sri Lanka, and donated 50 containers of rice.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China donated US$1 million to Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India each through its Geneva headquarters, according to the ministry.