Let’s hear it for the Queen,er, President!

A pres for the Prez? Left to right: Senate president Claudius Francis and House Speaker Peter Foster enjoying a light moment with visiting President Ma last Thursday.

A pres for the Prez? Left to right: Senate president Claudius Francis and House Speaker Peter Foster enjoying a light moment with visiting President Ma last Thursday.

By informed account, several of the specially invited failed to show up for last Thursday’s House party in honor of the visiting Taiwanese President Ma. By the same accounts there were even more absentees at the next day’s Government House supper—hopefully not the last for a Taiwanese head of state.

But what really turned some a deeper shade of rouge was that they were easily outnumbered at the supper tables by known members and promoters of the opposition party. Meanwhile regular Saint Lucians were demonstrably more concerned about the host’s absence when the aircraft touched down at Hewanorra that carried our nation’s premier underwriter.

It had been left to the prime minister’s perennial stand-in Philip J. Pierre to welcome the beneficent visitor who, when he stepped on local soil, felt, by his own account, like “coming home.”

Earlier, Pierre had deputized for the prime minister when the United States vice president visited the region. As for the prime minister himself, he had by-passed an opportunity to press Joe Biden’s flesh and maybe do a little singing at suppertime and instead had chosen for the umpteenth time to go see Fidel in Cuba, conceivably a visit that must’ve left him feeling as President Ma felt on arrival here!

Meanwhile the word from the office of the prime minister’s press secretary is that “protocol” dictates that heads of state do not meet courtesy-visiting counterparts on arrival. But was not P. J. Patterson when he visited a head of state? As I recall, he was bear-hugged by his local counterpart at the airport—as was the man responsible for the state of West Indies Cricket Darren Sammy several months ago when he had given us something special to crow about.

Since I could not lay hands on any literature related to the particular protocol, I turned to someone who knows about such things. He assured me there was nothing he could think of that says our prime minister couldn’t have shown up at Hewanorra last Thursday instead of his dutiful deputy. Neither was there anything to prevent him, he said. In other words, the local prime minister had two choices and he chose.

I wondered why the reliably impressive governor-general had not been rounded up to do the official honors at
Hewanorra. Alas, none of the experts from whom I sought guidance was on the occasion able to help.

No matter, it was interesting to hear the visiting president repeating his long-standing invitation to our prime minister to come take a closer look at the hand that feeds us. From all I’ve been able to uncover, the prime minister had always found good reasons not to visit Taiwan, none of them applicable when the invitations come.

Speaking of which: did our especially ebullient prime minister on Friday evening actually brag about his “long friendship with China” when the guest of honor was the President of Taiwan? I am reliably informed he
quickly righted himself but how do you take back such diplomatic boo-boos? Did the PM, when the folks were
already on their feet and heading for their cars, insist on a “toast to our beloved queen?” And if he did, was he referring to Her Majesty—or to someone else not in the room?

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