Letters & Opinion

100 Years and 100 Days — Saint Lucia-Taiwan ties in Century 21 – PART III

Image of Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Introduction
Taiwan this past Sunday observed the 110th Anniversary of its annual ‘Ten-Ten’ celebrations just as the new Saint Lucia government approaches its first 100 Days in office, it’s appropriate to revisit a brief history of direct ties between Saint Lucia and Taiwan, with emphasis on how historical factors have shaped current ties and how Castries and Taipei can each do more to make the decades-old relationship more beneficial and meaningful to both sides in 2021 — as well as in 2022 and beyond. The first part looked at the history of ties, the second at where ties are today and the third starts a look forward to what can be, if both sides agree; and the fourth will point ahead to a landscaped vision never painted…

PART III
Ahead of Sunday’s 110th Anniversary of what both China and Taiwan observe as ‘Ten-Ten’ or ‘Double Ten’ events marking significant parts of the respective histories of the mainland and the island, both sides sounded the usual loud bamboo cannon across the Straits that divides them one preaching reunification, the other independence.

This year the island complained that to many small flocks of big mainland birds were flying too near the skies above it, warning it could also fly a rival local flock into an aerial fight in disputed skies.

Both sides similarly observed 10/10, but differently – and it was an entirely different approach in Saint Lucia, where this year’s would be the first under the Philip J. Pierre administration.

COVID-19 and Climate Change conditions ensured the entire event planned by the Taiwan Embassy here would be an online celebration from 7pm that would also feature performances and exhibits of manifestations of the 28 years of ties between Castries and Taipei.

The online celebration also included opportunities for 50 Saint Lucian viewers to each win a $100 supermarket voucher by answering interesting questions about Saint Lucia-Taiwan ties, as well as prizes for best decorated lanterns made by Saint Lucians based on a theme ‘Taiwan-Saint Lucia Together’.

And given the near resemblance between the maps of the two islands, I could just imagine how today’s successors of the participants in previous December 13 Festivals of Light’ featuring lanterns and torches (and anything featuring “The Light’ in the national Coat-of-Arms and “the Flambeau’ in local political parlance) would have depicted today’s imagined images with the help of online digital editing and colorful illuminations.

Out of respect for the non-aligned foreign policy position of the new administration, I had decided to avoid even writing that day about today’s manifestations of the continuing wars of words and actions between the mainland and the island – and further dissuaded by the mainland leader’s reminder and warning to the world that same day, not to interfere in the ‘internal affairs’ of China and Taiwan.

Taiwan had taken-out major advertisements in the local press, featuring three half-page advertisements in local newspapers advertising the local ‘National Day Online Celebration’, Taiwan’s COVID-19 Experiences, themes like ‘Democracy, Freedom and Human Rights with Peace, Stability, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Prosperity’ and ‘Building Momentum’ through ‘Six Core Strategic Industries’ as well as ‘5+2 Industrial Innovation Program’

I’d also been very pleased a few days earlier when the new administration announced Taipei had agreed to redirect funds earlier allocated to another purpose.

Last week, the government unveiled a $10.8 Million national house repair program aimed at helping elderly and indigent people who can’t afford to fix their broken homes or to pay the cost of even the most basic repairs, from roofs to flooring.

The original US $4 million loan from Taiwan’s Export-Import Bank was for another entirely different purpose, but PM Pierre asked that be converted to this more needy and urgent use.

I was particularly encouraged by this programme and the explanations of how it will assist because I’d seen such a programme in action elsewhere in the Caribbean before – in Grenada during the 1079-1983 Revolution, when the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) arranged for people in communities to do self-help work every weekend assisting in repairing the homes of those most in need.

Based on community consensus, government provided institutional support, friendly private sector entities provided products, party, army and militia units provided labor alongside community volunteers, with food and drinks free in typical ‘coudmain’ (voluntary labor) style.

The end result was that people got their homes repaired regardless of whether they supported the revolution or not – and because of it, many who didn’t did identify with the process of building Grenada back better.

The programme announced by Housing Minister Richard Frederick at a gathering addressed by Prime Minister Pierre heard the minister outline the ins-and-outs of the program that will benefit indigent property owners and exclusion of the landless and the PM again underline that transparency and accountability will underline his administration’s handling of national funds and resources.

In areas where entire communities have been renting land with annual payments for decades and through generations (and in many places having already paid the value of the house lot in land rent over long periods), the Taiwan-funded project will be useless.

But that will also allow other government ministries and departments to address that particular problem, especially as some such landlords have already doubled the annual rent, citing COVID economic pressures, which can also result in a win-win solution for all as an extended part of the project.

Once again (like between 2011 and 2016), emphasis of this new, all-inclusive, Labour-led administration is in a right direction that will help Taiwan and Saint Lucia’s parties and parliamentarians, supporters, political administrators and taxpayers, better know and understand how their hard-earned dollars are handled and spent.

The new house repair project will also open more Saint Lucian eyes to the fact that relationships between governments can also always be for the better for people, depending on the disposition of the ruling party regarding use of funds paid for by hardworking taxpayers elsewhere.

At the end of the day, it also depends on how the two sides waltz — whether they dance comfortably close or observe social distancing on the regional and global stages.

P.S. I’d intended to observe how the 2021 Taiwan online celebration would have played-out on my TV from 7pm that Sunday evening, but seven hours earlier I, over lunch,  my family got the forbidding and terrifying news that my younger brother and popular fellow national media personality Hildreth ‘Alex’ Bousquet, had died near midday at Victoria Hospital. (Part IV in Weekend VOICE)

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