TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Spirits were high in Tianmu Sunday evening (Oct. 27) as Taiwan's ally St. Vincent and the Grenadines celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Caribbean island nation's independence.
The ceremony began at 5:00 p.m. at the embassy building followed by a reception that lasted until 7:00 p.m. In attendance were several dozen Vincentian and Taiwanese officials and their families as well as Vincentian students residing in Taiwan.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines established its embassy in Taiwan on August 8, with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves making a special week-long trip to the country to preside over its inauguration. The embassy officially opened its doors earlier this month.
In an interview with Taiwan News, St. Vincent's first-ever ambassador to Taiwan, Andrea Bowman, recalled that she had arrived in Taipei at the crack of dawn on August 6. She met with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) just minutes later and, the following day, presented her credentials to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
On January 1, 2020, St. Vincent will take its place on the UN Security Council for two years as a non-permanent member, joining Estonia, Tunisia, Niger, and Vietnam. Bowman called it "a little country in a very big seat," adding, "Even though we're small we're going to have a very big voice. Our voice is going to be heard more significantly, more loudly."
Bowman said the Security Council seat is an opportunity to support Taiwan, which is seen in her country not only as an ally but as a friend. "Speaking for Taiwan's recognition and inclusion, this is going to be one of our most important objectives," she added, observing that, itself a collection of small islands, St. Vincent feels compelled to speak out on behalf of its fellow island nations.
Regarding the country's 38-year relations with Taiwan, the ambassador cited Taiwan's significant investments in education in St. Vincent, which include US$200,000 per year designated for food, clothing, and the transportation of students to school. "No family in St. Vincent that is unaware of Taiwan and Taiwan's contribution to our development, particularly with regard to education," she stated, adding that this has engendered a deep sense of loyalty for its ally.
Bowman also lauded the countries' technical cooperation in areas such as agriculture and human resource development. Having recently attended the graduation of Vincentian students enrolled in auto mechanic and hospitality programs, she expressed optimism about the opportunities the bilateral relationship has provided to young people from the island chain.
Bowman also told Taiwan News that St. Vincent is also looking at Taiwan as a model for improving its healthcare system: "Taiwan has done extremely well with regard to universal health coverage for 23 million people." "Our population is under 110,000, so we could learn something about getting that right in St. Vincent and the Grenadines," she added.