January 6, 2006
au revoir Ambassador Chu

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sir Louis Straker announced on Tuesday that Taiwan’s Ambassador to St. Vincent and the Grenadines Elizabeth Chu will be wrapping up her tour of duty here later this month. This news, though not unexpected, must have been greeted with sadness by many Vincentians.

In just two-and-a-half years, Madame Chu, with her creativity and characteristic style, was able to, on behalf of her country, achieve much.{{more}}Within days of her arrival, it was clear that Ambassador Chu intended to do things differently. Besides the traditional technical cooperation and financial assistance projects that one has come to associate with Taiwan, Madame Chu showed keen interest in learning about and sharing in this country’s culture, and finding ways to teach Vincentians about her own.

For example, last year, one of our local Carnival mas bands, SVG Players presented, “Somewhere in Taiwan.” This portrayal took the form of a “Traditional Chinese Opera”, performed by puppets. The puppets were in this case our local the masqueraders. This portrayal was part sponsored by the Taiwanese Embassy.

Without doubt, she broadened and deepened the 25-year-old bonds of friendship between the two countries. What is remarkable, is that these bonds are felt not only by the men and women who walk the corridors of power in this country, but by the ordinary citizens. The Ambassador is now one of the most recognizable public figures in this country.

When Madame Chu travels around the country, she is received like royalty. At the ceremony for the handing over of the cheque for the construction of the Youroumei- Taiwan bridge, the residents of the area beamed with pleasure on being introduced to her.

Further evidence of close bonds felt by our people could be seen in the warm welcome given to Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bain by ordinary Vincentians, during his visit here. No prompting was necessary, the affection was palpable. President Chen noticed it and commented that even though members of his delegation were fatigued after travelling for 10 days, the enthusiasm of Vincentians had rejuvenated them.

We are sure that the Ambassador is heartened by the outpouring of love extended to her. We are equally confident that the Ambassador leaves here hoping that above all she was able to communicate the “secrets” to her country’s “economic miracle.” In fifty years, the people of Taiwan were able to turn their country from a struggling agrarian society into a country with the 17th largest economy in the world and 3rd largest foreign exchange reserves.

In the Throne Speech to mark the opening of our Parliament just over a week ago, Governor General, Sir Frederick Ballantyne stated that, “continuing the process of transforming St. Vincent and the Grenadines from the status of a village-state to that of a modern, sophisticated society within a globalised world through advances in, among other things: The education revolution, modern telecommunications….” was one of the major policies of his Government.

That is exactly what Taiwan did. We should use their example as a road map. The Taiwanese people not only work hard, but smart. They use technology to drive their economic growth.

Because of our limited natural resources and small population, we are doomed to lose the battle to survive as an agricultural trading nation in today’s “fair” trade world. We do stand a fighting chance however, in the services and knowledge sectors. The Education Revolution, and the steps being taken to make computer literacy and access to the Internet accessible by all are good policy decisions. It is now up to us as a people to grasp the opportunities and run with them, literally.

To Ambassador Chu, we say thank you and Godspeed. We will not say goodbye, but rather, au revoir.