TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Saint Lucian Ambassador to Taiwan Edwin Laurent on Monday (Feb. 22) reflected on the Caribbean nation’s 42 years of independence and shared his outlook on Taiwan-Saint Lucia relations in an interview with Taiwan News.
Before delivering remarks at two consecutive events organized by the Saint Lucian Embassy on Monday, Laurent told Taiwan News that the past four decades have been “spectacular.” He said that Saint Lucians have seen a “dramatic transformation” during which poverty declined and the literacy rate increased. “We have become masters of our own destiny,” he said, adding that the nation is working for itself and is able to collaborate with any country it desires.
When asked about this year’s theme of “A Resilient Nation. We can. We will,” Laurent said that handling the coronavirus pandemic has not been easy for such a small country, but it is “determined” to overcome COVID-related challenges. He acknowledged that the pandemic brought the nation’s economy to near collapse, as it largely depends on tourism. However, he remarked that Saint Lucia is “no stranger to adversity.”
The ambassador continued by saying his nation was on the right track to recovery from COVID-19. He mentioned that Saint Lucia has received its first shipment of COVAX vaccines, totaling 70,000. Once most of the population gets vaccinations, then “we should be okay domestically,” Laurent stated, adding that further arrangements are being made to achieve this.
Laurent stated that there is still no travel bubble between Saint Lucia and Taiwan due to layover concerns and inadequate facilities to handle travel between the two countries. However, the two sides are actively working to eventually open up travel, he said.
When asked about upcoming Saint Lucian cultural events, the ambassador said that most will be virtual events. Nevertheless, he mentioned that the embassy is “doing whatever it can” to boost tourism and said there will be a promotional event in Taichung two months from now. He also stated that the embassy is working with schools in New Taipei City to hold cultural activities, such as ones highlighting traditional Saint Lucian cuisine.
Taiwan-Saint Lucia relations are very important, the ambassador stressed, adding that Saint Lucia is a strong supporter of Taiwan. He said he expected a good future between the two nations.
The two scheduled events that followed included one to acknowledge medical donations by Taiwanese organizations and a flag-raising ceremony marking the 42nd anniversary of the Caribbean nation’s independence.
During the donation event, Ambassador Laurent announced that Chang Bing Show Chwan Memorial Hospital (秀傳醫療體系) and GFUN (聚紡) donated PPE to Saint Lucia, while Nan Liu Enterprise ((南六企業股份有限公司) donated 200,000 masks, and the Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟基金會) gifted regular face masks, gloves, test kits, disposable coveralls, and N95 masks.
Following the first event, the flag-raising ceremony was held outside the embassy’s main building, to commemorate Feb. 22, 1979, when “centuries of colonial rule finally came to an end.”
He said that since its independence, the nation became focused on improving the “livelihoods of our people and meeting their dreams and aspirations” and working with other countries to “bring about a better world that will be aligned with our core values of justice, peace, democracy, and respect for human rights.”
Ambassador Laurent stated that Saint Lucia’s partnership with Taiwan “has been very special.” He said that the East Asian country was “one of the first nations with which we established diplomatic relations back in 1979,” adding that “42 years later, our first and only embassy in the whole of Asia is right here in Taipei.”
He concluded by saying in regards to the coronavirus pandemic, “[Saint Lucia] will play our part in helping to improve the situation for others who can benefit from our efforts.”
Saint Kitts and Nevis Ambassador Jasmine E. Huggins, who is also the Dean of the local diplomatic corps, and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Miguel Li-jey Tsao (曹立傑) also made remarks during the special ceremony.