AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE RT. HON. DR. SIR KENNEDY ALPHONSE SIMMONDS
ON THE OCCASION OF THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS OF THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA ON
The Democrat: Dr. Simmonds, we appreciate your agreement to talk with us about our current flourishing relationship with the Republic of China on Taiwan these past 28 years.
What were some of the things that led you to make the decision to enter into this relationship and what are some of the personalities, experiences, events, and milestones that stand out in your mind as you look back over your term in office as Head of the Government?
Dr. Simmonds: First, I would like to extend heartfelt congratulations to the Government and People of the Republic of China on Taiwan as they celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the first democracy on the continent of Asia. This is indeed a momentous achievement when viewed against the backdrop of the enormous challenges which have been endured and surmounted by the People of the Republic of China.
I am sure there were times when the survival of that country was in doubt in the minds of others. Yet they have never looked back. They have gone from strength to strength and from one amazing achievement to another in their quest for a better life for every man, woman and child of their great country. I wish them well and I long for the day when they will be accepted by all as a worthy and rightful member of the United Nations Organisation.
Secondly, the relationship between St. Kitts and Nevis and the Republic of China has been flourishing for more than 28 years. In my capacity as Premier of the PAM-NRP Coalition Government, I led a 7-man delegation to Taiwan from 24th to 30th November, 1980. I was accompanied by Deputy Premier Hon. Michael Powell; Minister of Communications, etc., Hon. Ivor Stephens; Constitutional Advisor Dr. William Herbert; Mr. Hugh Heyliger, Mr. Elmo Liburd, and Mr. John Saunders. It would be fair to say that that visit sealed the start of the relations between our two countries.
Thirdly, it is a matter of great satisfaction for me that the relationship has continued to flourish since the change of government in St. Kitts and Nevis in 1995. I will say no more than that it seemed for a time, especially when our new government sent a 17-man delegation to mainland China in 1995, that the relations which had been so flourishing might be terminated.
My first visit to Taiwan in 1980 was significant in many ways. It was the first opportunity to embrace a new external partnership with the island of Nevis as a team. The composition of the delegation was carefully chosen to include a Minister from the island of Nevis and a technical support person also from Nevis. Again, it was very significant on account of my Government’s strategy of economic diversification. We were laying an emphasis on agriculture. Mr. Ken Martin who was Head of Agriculture was included in the team.
Unfortunately, a last-minute emergency led to him dropping out. But his place was quickly allocated to Mr. John Saunders on account of his training and expertise in agriculture. In our talks in Taiwan, an agricultural project was included for Nevis, one selected by Nevis. I think it was a project to cultivate ginger. But Nevis was in on the ground floor. I recall that the British Government objected to our 1980 Mission to Taiwan.
Under the arrangement for Associated Statehood, Britain was responsible for our foreign affairs. They had relations with mainland China. They said it was improper for us to go to Taiwan. I remember the British Government representative Mr. Arthur brought a protest note which he delivered to me.
I responded by saying that our focus was the development of St. Kitts and Nevis and that we would do whatever was in the interests of that development. I said that our trip did not involve foreign policy. It was not a diplomatic mission. It was an economic diversification mission. My government took the position that with British aid on the decline and American aid limited to small community projects, we would explore appropriate non-traditional relationships which could foster our strategy to improve the lives of our people.
Taiwan reached out to us when we had nothing to offer. That made an impact on me. They held out the hand of friendship. Besides, we were intrigued by the way in which Taiwan had mastered the art of getting high productivity out of small areas in the field of agriculture. That is why the basis of the relationship was started in the agricultural technical mission.
I can recall my satisfaction at the training programmes in agriculture which Taiwan supported tremendously as we sought to create a new breed of small farmer, part of our strategy to inspire our people to develop their own small business enterprises. Tracey Peets Armstrong, Guilbert, Caesar, these are names that come readily to mind of small farmers who were influenced by our relations with Taiwan. I remember some of the programmes offered by Taiwan in dry-land rice beginning way back in 1985 at Cranston, Belmont and Fahies. 14 farmers participated as 6 varieties of dry-land rice were tried.
There was also an attempt at pineapple cultivation from 1990 when 2,000 seedlings were imported from Taiwan and distributed to 7 individual farmers and the Nevis Research Station for multiplication. The quality and size of the pineapples were said to rival those of the famous Antigua Black pineapples. They offered hog-raising seminars, plant tissue culture, flori-culture, fruit trees and aqua-culture seminars. I recall our feeder road programme at Wingfield, Fahies and Harris’ was designed to work with the agricultural technical mission of Taiwan. I enjoyed visiting Taiwan.
My visit in October 1983 was very significant as it was on that occasion that I established diplomatic relations on behalf of our newly inaugurated Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis with the Republic of China on Taiwan. They were delighted with the cementing of our friendship. And I was able to witness the fantastic National Day celebrations in Taipei. One of the most striking features of that parade was the prominence given to young people from schools and youth organisations. They just kept coming in the parade and it was so obvious that an emphasis was being placed on youth for their future.
I also recall my last visit in May 1990 when I was invited to witness the Inauguration of new President Lee Teng-hui, the first Taiwanese President. He had a Doctorate in agriculture. I remember the former President Chiang Ching-kuo, son of National Hero Chiang Kai-shek. I remember Foreign Minister Chu Fu-sung. We always knew that it was important to treat our new partner with respect and with loyalty.
St. Kitts and Nevis was the first country in the OECS to appoint an Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary to the Republic of China on Taiwan. Indeed, our carefully selected choice, Barrister-at-law Mr. Terence V Byron, has reported that he was told on presenting his credentials to President Chiang Ching-kuo in 1986 that he was the first Ambassador from the Commonwealth Caribbean to do so in Taipei.
All in all, I have derived a great deal of satisfaction from the knowledge that what we started in 1980 to foster meaningful relations with our friends, the Government and People of the Republic of China on Taiwan, continues to flourish and to deepen with the passing years. I pray that we will remain ever loyal and ever respectful towards these wonderful people and I wish them all the best for the future.