Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) jumped to the defense of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday after reporters questioned the propriety of Ma giving a Solomon Islands tribal chief a state-of-the-art smartphone as a gift during his visit last week to the South Pacific nation.
Chief Stanley Tapeva raised about 1,000 Solomon Islands dollars (US$120) in donations for victims of Typhoon Morakot, then spent hours in a boat and on foot traveling the 38km to the capital Honiara from his home in Kava, Isabel Province, to deliver the money.
Ma gave him the phone as a gesture of appreciation for all his hard work.
PHOTO: LO PEI-DER, TAIPEI TIMES
In a press conference detailing the government’s achievements during Ma’s state visit to the nation’s six Pacific allies, Yang showed reporters copies of English letters written by Tapeva to the press and Ma.
Yang said Tapeva was considered an intellectual in his country, and the chief knew a lot about cellphones.
Tapeva had written a letter to Taiwanese journalists saying that he had been using a cellphone for three years and that he owned three phones. Ma said Tapeva had thanked him in the letter for giving him the gift because he could use it to contact his sons, Taiwan’s technical mission and the Ministry of Agriculture, which has an office in Honiara.
Yang called the press conference after local reporters and legislators criticized the president for giving the chief a 3G HTC smartphone.
Media reports had questioned the appropriateness of the gift, suggesting it disregarded the needs of the chief and the mobile communications infrastructure of the islands.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Justin Chou (周守訓), a member of the Foreign and National Defense Committee, said the gift did not meet the needs of people of that country and that the government needed to review the decision to choose the cellphone as a gift.
However, Yang said the president “understood” the reason why the ministry chose the cellphone as a gift and considered the gift “appropriate.”
To prove that the chief knew how to use cellphones, Yang dialed one of the numbers during the press conference. Someone answered the phone, but did not identify himself and the call was cut off shortly afterwards because of bad reception.
Yang said reporters who wished to call the chief should wait until May because the Pacific nation is upgrading its international phone lines.
Ma also defended the gift of the phone yesterday.
“Even I don’t know how to use that phone,” Ma said. “It’s the latest model.”
“The Solomon Islands is not an underdeveloped country and Chief Stanley is not an uneducated man. In fact, he has had training in Australia and Kaohsiung,” Ma said. “He even told me that he felt like a minister because the cellphones I gave out were usually reserved for ministers.”
Ma said that when he was little, he went to a church in Wanhua to collect powdered milk, butter and old clothes donated by other countries. Now that Taiwan has become better off, it is time to pay back the generosity of the international community, he said.
A video allegedly featuring retired general Kao An-kuo (高安國) calling on Taiwanese military officers to surrender to China and overthrow the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government has sparked outrage and calls for him to be charged with treason. The video, titled “A message to Taiwanese military officers,” allegedly shows Kao saying: “I call on commanding officers of our military troops to stand up for Chinese nationalism, to take up this duty under heaven’s mandate to save Taiwanese from oppression and terrible suffering.” Dressed in military fatigues and a beret, the lieutenant general called on officers to overthrow the “fraudulent DPP regime,”
‘NOT IMPOSSIBLE’: Acceptance to the UN would end the nation’s troubles, but it would be impossible to achieve without US backing, Legislative Speaker You Si-kun said The US might recognize Taiwan if war breaks out in the Taiwan Strait, Legislative Speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃) said yesterday while discussing politics with former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Speaking on Chen’s program on Smile Radio, You reminisced about his agrarian childhood, studies, the founding of the Democratic Progressive Party in 1986 and his eight years as Yilan County commissioner. Chen’s appointment of You as premier in February 2002 marked several firsts, as he was Taiwan’s youngest premier, as well as the first from a farming background and first democratically elected county leader to hold the office. Asked to share his views on
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday rejected the claim Beijing has been making about Taiwan’s status, while thanking US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman for raising concerns about Taiwan during her meeting with Chinese officials. Sherman met with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) on a visit to Tianjin on Sunday and Monday, with Wang urging Washington not to infringe on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Taiwan is part of China, a fundamental fact that would never change, and China has the right to take any action needed to restrain Taiwanese independence, Wang said, urging Washington to abide
A solo exhibition by Taiwanese artist Lee Kuang-yu (李光裕) at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay has generated considerable attention since its opening last year, including from Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍). Since the COVID-19 pandemic closed borders early last year, domestic tourism in Singapore has soared at destinations such as the popular Gardens by the Bay, a nature park in the city-state’s Central Region. Since the venue’s reopening in August last year, “A Sculptor’s Secret Garden,” a solo exhibition of Lee Kuang-yu’s work curated by Tan Hwee Koon (陳慧君), has been been especially popular. Originally scheduled to close today, the show