THREE weeks after the inauguration ceremony was held for the new Saint Lucian embassy in Taiwan, Saint Lucians are still left to play the guessing game as to who will serve as our ambassador to that Asian nation.
Minister for External Affairs, Alva Baptiste, told the media at a press conference held at his Baywalk Shopping Mall office last Friday that he was supposed to bring up the matter at last Monday’s Cabinet meeting.
Assuring the media that there was “no mystery” about the impending appointment Baptiste said the Taipei office will be staffed by his ministry as soon as possible.
Baptiste’s timeframe for the ambassadorial appointment conflicts with that of his Permanent Secretary, Hubert Emmanuel, who, prior to last Friday’s press conference, was quoted as saying that the ambassadorial appointment was expected to take effect before the end of last week. A strong knowledge of the diplomatic relationships between Taiwan and Saint Lucia, he said, would be a key asset the new ambassador should possess. The disclaimer to Emmanuel’s prediction, however, was that the final decision rested with his minister.
Many people are questioning the delay in the selection of an ambassador to serve in Taiwan. While Baptiste said on Friday that careful consideration is being made to select the right individual, it would stand to reason that such selection process should have taken effect ever since Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony led a local delegation to Taiwan back in November, 2013.
Upon his return here from that Taiwan trip, the Prime Minister had indicated that government was swayed by the Saint Lucian students on scholarships in Taiwan to open an embassy there and not leave them at the discretion of the Saint Kitts/Nevis embassy officials whenever they needed assistance.
According to Baptiste, Taiwan will undertake – if not all – of the expenses associated with running Saint Lucia’s Taipei office for the first year. Whatever happens after that year-long support expires, remains unclear. As the Minister has said on previous occasions, rental space in Taipei does not come cheaply. Arguably, however, a Saint Lucian embassy in Taipei can play a pivotal role in connecting Saint Lucia with the Asian channel of commerce.
So after a year and a half of getting around to setting up an embassy in Taiwan, the waiting game continues to see who will walk through those embassy doors as ambassador. Obviously, any appointment to the post will come under much scrutiny from certain quarters. But the crucial point that must not be discounted in all these transformations is that when dealing with the Asians, time is of the essence.
Fostering deeper diplomatic ties should not be a word-of-mouth thing but instead expressing an attitude that indicates that one is ready, decisive and on time. If not, such diplomacy can be seen by other diplomats as a case where one shows up at the party long after the toasts have been made and the champagne bottles run dry.