However, it now seems like it has only stirred up a political ‘ants nest’, in an already partisan and volatile climate characterized by fierce pre-election campaigning by both the governing party and those that oppose it.
In a rather strong charge made on Monday morning (19th August), on local radio, the senior Deputy Political Leader of the main opposition party, Eugene Hamilton, accused the government of not inviting the opposition to any of the official functions organized for the visiting president.
Hamilton who is also the Member of Parliament (for St. Peters, Conaree, Cayon), said that the opposition members were not even invited to the welcome ceremony at the Robert Bradshaw International Airport, on Sunday 18th August, when President Ma Ying-jeou and his 150 member delegation touched down, and were received by Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas and his Cabinet colleagues.
However, in addition to some diplomats who were present, along with senior government officials, the Premier of Nevis, Vance Amory was also among the dignitaries present on the tarmac. But it is not certain if Amory was there in his capacity as Premier of the Nevis Island Administration, or as a member of the opposition in the federal parliament of St. Kitts & Nevis.
Hamilton also charged that no meetings were arranged between the president and the opposition, not even the Leader of the Opposition, said the PAM Deputy Leader.
He said that the relationship between Taiwan and St. Kitts & Nevis, is not a private one between the president and the prime Minister, but one that is between the peoples of the two countries. Hamilton was firm in his position that he and the other opposition members are also representatives of the people, suggesting that it is not only those on the government side who can make that claim. He said that this is a relationship that was bridged in 1981 and officially formalized in 1983 when his party, the People’s Action Movement, took the country into independence.
“It is therefore troubling that President Ma would travel from half way around the world to be in the federation and the opposition members have not been invited to meet with the president. I believe that Dr. Douglas could not be afraid of what we may discuss in the presence of President Ma. And I am also confident that ambassador Miguel Tsao must be very troubled that the opposition may view the visit of his president as an image-building exercise for our beleaguered prime minister, Dr. Douglas. We are aware that countries that have had relations with Taiwan severed those relationships when governments changed. We have to look no further than Grenada. In fact I want to believe that the president’s visit here, (in the region), especially to Paraguay, was one based on the fact that relationships had been lost in the region recently.”
“We wish to recall that in 1995, (the late) Sir Lee Llewellyn Moore (former ambassador), led a 17 man delegation to mainland China aimed at severing our relationship with Taiwan and forging one with China. So we in the opposition who have not been invited to any of the ceremonies with the president, one of which I understood took take place in the parliamentary lounge; then it is very troubling that we, who represent the people, have not been invited,” claimed Hamilton.
“Once relationships continue from government to government it is an important thing for any visiting head to meet with persons from both sides.” Hamilton said that that is why the opposition finds their exclusion to be very troubling.
“We have had a very good relationship with Taiwan for more than 30 years,” said the PAM Deputy leader, who admitted that the relationship with Taiwan is one that his party cherishes, primarily because the two peoples believe in the same thing; democracy (which he said is not being practiced in our federation at this time), and the freedom of our people.
Hamilton reminded that the relationship with Taiwan was initiated since in 1981 by then premier Dr. Kennedy Simmonds, who was chided by the British for his attempt to build that relationship. Notwithstanding the pressure from the British, said Hamilton, Dr. Simmonds proceeded two years after, at independence, to establish formal diplomat ties. He said it was because of this defiant action by Simmonds why we are able to celebrate more than 30 years of relations with Taiwan. He said this is why it is very troubling that members of the opposition had not been given the courtesy to meet with the president. And this must be troubling too to the local resident ambassador, stated Hamilton.
He ended by stating that the relationship with Taiwan is dependent upon relationships with both the government and the opposition.