The ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to The Gambia has described the latter as number one among his country's allies in Africa, saying this is vividly standing out like a signpost.
His Excellency Samuel Chen made this remark Tuesday at the Pencha Mi Hall of the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi, where his embassy hosted a reception in celebration of Taiwan's 101st National Day. He said The Gambia is not only an important diplomatic ally of Taiwan, but also a very respectful cooperation partner.
The Taiwanese ambassador went on to underline five major reasons to justify his point: The Gambia being a peace-loving and democratic country, the outstanding leadership of President Jammeh, and the Gambia government's setting-up of a comprehensive scheme -the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) as the blueprint of national development.
"This year, I believe that both you and I are very delighted with the good harvest of crops. We thank Allah the Almighty for the good winds and rains. 2012 is indeed a good year of harvest and we hope it will continue in the coming years," he said, adding that it is his fervent belief that the friendship and cooperative relations between the two countries will grow from strength to strength.
Ambassador Chen told the gathering that Taiwan is today maintaining a firm friendship with her 23 diplomatic allies alongside developing pragmatic relations with many other countries. "A total of 126 countries and territories offered visa-waiver or landing-visa privileges to Taiwan nationals," he said, and added: "The United States government has just announced on 2nd October that Taiwan becomes the 37th participant of US visa waiver programme."
He went on to reveal that the statistics of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) put Taiwan's GDP-per capita at US$37,720 in 2011, which ranked the country 19 among 183 surveyed countries. He added: "Also, the Global Competitiveness Report of 2012-2013, for the third consecutive year, ranked Taiwan 13 out of 144 countries."
Ambassador Chen averred that the vision of the Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is also pushing the country to play five roles in the international arena which includes making Taiwan become a peacemaker, making the country a provider of international humanitarian aid and be a promoter of international cultural exchange. "When we recall our history over 100 years, we never forget that Taiwan used to be a recipient of international development aid. Taiwan started to receive economic aid from the United States from 1950 up to 1965 after which the aid was terminated," he further stated.
He said using this aid during the 15 years, Taiwan was able to build up her infrastructure, reservoirs, highways and other important aspects such as setting up import substitution industries and developing agricultural reviving programme. The Taiwanese ambassador told the gathering that his country is now sharing the successful experience with dozens of countries via hundreds of projects including agricultural technical support, medical assistance, capacity building and vocational trainings. "This is also exactly the assistance rendered by Taiwan to The Gambia in an effort to meet the target of the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals," he remarked.
Also speaking at the reception, the minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Dr Momodou Tangara, observed that Taiwan, which has risen from the ashes of war to the pinnacle of development and self-sufficiency, is a role model to nations that are aspiring to meaningful independence and development. He said that through hard work and with the highest sense of nationalism, the people of Taiwan have taken their destiny into their own hands and have transformed their country into a technological giant, which has made the country and her people the envy of the world.
Minister Tangara further stated that the cooperation between Taiwan and The Gambia could only be described as excellent and beneficial, acknowledging that through the general framework and protocols of cooperation between the two countries, hundreds of Gambian students have been trained at various institutions in Taiwan. "This is a major contribution to capacity building as these students return to The Gambia with the requisite knowledge and expertise to participate in national development," he added.
He also acknowledged that Taiwan has contributed significantly to the enhancement of Gambia's naval capacity by providing the country with gunboats to patrol and secure the country's territorial waters against international poachers; a contribution which has not only helped The Gambia to protect her marine resources, but also assisted in warding off traffickers who use the sea lanes for their illegal trade.
He continued: "The Gambia and Taiwan, are partners in development and two democratic countries which uphold the rule of law where all citizens are given equal opportunities to develop and achieve according to their God-given talents because the two sides shares common values. "The Gambia is peace-loving nation and like Taiwan, the primary concern of our government is the development of the country and the well-being of the people. This is why we take Taiwan as a serious partner, as an ally and as an inspiration for our development efforts."
Minister Tangara then assured the Taiwanese ambassador that President Jammeh is satisfied with the partnership with Taiwan, and that the people of The Gambia are also inspired by the resilience of the people of Taiwan, their determination to survive and their strong will to succeed in a world that is highly competitive and volatile.
The Foreign Affairs minister also said that The Gambia is grateful to Taiwan for sharing her experience with the country and for providing the country with technical assistance in various fields, saying that through the cooperation, The Gambia has registered significant strides in her endeavour to achieve the targets of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
He also assured that as an ally partner, The Gambia will continue to be a strong advocate for the recognition of Taiwan by the international community and for her admission into the specialised agencies of the United Nations. "As we have recently stated at the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the admission of Taiwan into the world body will enrich and enhance international cooperation and development," he further remarked.
Minister Tangara used the platform to congratulate and commend the government and people of Taiwan for the 101 years of outstanding performance and achievement. "I wish to also recognise and acknowledge the sterling contributions of Ambassador Chen and his staff to the development and consolidation of cooperation between The Gambia and Taiwan," he added.
The reception was graced by the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy; the secretary general and head of Civil Service, who is also the minister of Presidential Affairs and National Assembly Matters, Dr. Njogu Bah; and other Cabinet ministers, the speaker of the National Assembly and former speakers as well as officials of the Taiwan Embassy and foreign diplomats in the country.