Further cementing a relationship which began back in 1984, Saint Lucia has officially opened an embassy in Taiwan. It is the first for the island in Asia. To commemorate the historic occasion, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, along with a delegation which included Saint Lucia’s Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation Alva Baptiste, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister David Lin, Taiwan’s Ambassador to St. Lucia James Chang and Permanent Representative of Saint Lucia to the United Nations Menissa Rambally, among others, attended an opening ceremony in Taipei.
The move is considered integral to strengthening bilateral ties between the allies who lost contact after Saint Lucia switched allegiance to the People’s Republic of China in 1997 but resumed relations with Taiwan in 2007.
“We could not have a diplomatic relationship without having a physical presence in Taiwan,” said Baptiste.
Back in Saint Lucia there is much derision towards what is considered another joyride for government officials and an excuse to install overpaid diplomats overseas at the expense of taxpayers.
But for the more than 80 local students who are part of a longstanding scholarship program in Taiwan, it is a necessity.
One of those students is Nola Rene, a first year medical student at Ishou University located in the south Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, who had rave reviews about her experience thus far.
“It’s a pretty new program. I am one of the second set of students here. They’re taking care of us. The technology is beyond advanced. We’re getting top quality education here and anyone who can take advantage of this experience, they should.”
Rene is thrilled to now have a pseudo home away from home. “I think it is an amazing idea for the embassy here in Taiwan. Opening it was a pretty good move by the government because year after year more students are coming over here. Our numbers are growing and we are residing all over Taiwan; we are in the north and south. So I think it’s a pretty good move especially since we are so far from home. Something as simple as getting our passports renewed, we may have to go find an embassy maybe somewhere in the US and it is an expense. Having an embassy here would help with things like this. If we encounter any problems we have an embassy that can assist us. Again the biggest thing about it is that
we are far away from home. So it’s a good move. It says the government is thinking about us, our future and the fact that it is here, I think it says that more Saint Lucians are going to be coming over.”
She knows there is criticism but believes fellow countrymen do not understand the pitfalls of living abroad.
“I say bravo to the government for this initiative and I want to say thank you to the prime minister and his team for establishing the embassy here in Taiwan. For those of us who are here, I am very sure it’s going to be something that we appreciate. Because a lot of people don’t know what it feels like when you’re so far and you encounter issues and problems. You don’t have anywhere to turn. And that is something I can testify to with my dad passing away tragically (in Saint Lucia) and I was not able to go home.”
Sophomore at the National Ilan University in the department of engineering and one of the attendees at the event, Sabrina Sayers spoke on behalf of an organization of local students in Taiwan.
“We, the members of the Association of Saint Lucians in Taiwan, are excited to finally have an official Saint Lucian presence here in Taiwan. We have faced numerous difficulties over the years, from getting passports renewed to putting on cultural expositions. I am confident that with the opening of the Embassy of Saint Lucia to the Republic of China, Taiwan, these issues will cease to exist. We look forward to a future with endless possibilities as we work to not only acquire an education but to represent Saint Lucia in every way possible.”
Other members of the official contingent were Dr Cadelia Monrose, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Hubert Emmanuel, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation, Dr Kentry Jn Pierre, Junior Minister in the Ministry of Tourism, Heritage and Creative Industries, Calixte George, Administrative Attache to the Prime Minister, and Ronald Ramjattan, General Manager of Baron Foods.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is the only country left of Taiwan’s 22 diplomatic allies without an embassy on site.