SI & Taiwan – two friends walking the road of friendship

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Excerpts of speech by Governor General Sir Frank Kabui on the occasion of the State Luncheon to mark Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to Solomon Islands

It is almost 7 years ago that I made a Speech to welcome your predecessor, President Ma, to Honiara in March, 2010. My speech then was non-partisan to the power divide in Taiwan. I was not aware then that the Koumintang, the Chinese Nationalist Party of China, did have a branch office at Tulagi, the then Protectorate’s old capital, from 1923 onwards. The building that housed the office was built in 1927.

Above the entrance to the building were written the words, “KUO MINTANG.” They were separate, not one word. Below this were the words, “The Chinese Nationalist Party” in English. The Chinese language version was also visible. I did not therefore tell him of this fact, as I was not aware of it at that time.

Rather, interesting, perhaps a prophetic omen for the future establishment of the current relationship between Taiwan and Solomon Islands.

The Speech I made then was about the people of Taiwan, their government, our friendship and their success story in the rise to economic supremacy in the Asia/Pacific Region.

Like I did then in my speech, I do likewise welcome you to Honiara on behalf of the people of Solomon Islands. They have heard much about Taiwan and you being the new President of the Republic of China, Taiwan, but have not been able to see you in person. We are happy to see you in Honiara and for others in the country knowing that you have come to visit us is knowledge enough that you show interest in us and our country.

The fact that you are a woman leader is an encouragement to our aspiring women leaders in Solomon Islands, and our girls.

I also welcome the other Hon. Members of your esteemed delegation who have come with you to visit us.

It goes without saying that we are old friends in terms of the duration of our friendship and the close relationship between your country and its people and my country and its people. It is the political leadership that changes from time to time in our two countries respectively for obvious reason.

The people to people friendship however remains and continues as I speak. This is important for now and into the future. Your country has much to offer and we have much to benefit from your experience and know-how in your economic success story. We of course offer you support as and when needed at the international level and in other areas of need. This is normal in any bilateral friendship between any two countries and Taiwan and Solomon Islands are no exception.

I and my wife had visited your beautiful country on four occasions, the recent being in May, 2016 to witness your Inauguration as the 14th President of Taiwan following the polls to choose a new President. I mentioned this at Government House this morning. The first visit was in May, 2010 following President Ma’s earlier visit in March to Solomon Islands upon becoming President.

The second visit was in 2013 to mark 30 years of friendship between our two countries. The third visit was in October, 2015 to attend the 104th National Day of Taiwan on 10th October, 2015. During these visits, I had seen significant economic and cultural landmarks in Taipei and to some extent the modern facilities at the Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital in the City of Kaohsiung.

Generally, what struck me most was the ability of the leaders and people of Taiwan to move from being a developing country to being one of the economic giants in Asia after the end of the Second World War and the 1949 Constitution. That journey is within my lifetime. It is truly mind boggling. It is beyond me. I cannot understand it but also being aware of the indisputable fact that the Chinese people have had a 5,000 year history of civilisation.

The next thing I learnt is that there is much Solomon Islanders can learn from the Taiwanese experience. Learning to speak Mandarin is one example. It is already happening. There are lots more to learn from the Taiwanese people. Already, things are happening in this regard within the last 30 years of diplomatic friendship.

I would like to say that our diplomatic relation produces development opportunities. I would like to regard our diplomatic relationship as being the basis for the creation of a “box of development opportunities” being carried along by two friends walking the road of friendship. These two friends are Taiwan and Solomon Islands. Each one holds the handle attached to the box on each side of it so that it does not fall to the ground.

Inside this box are development opportunities of various descriptions. They have been put inside the box by Taiwan and Solomon Islands by mutual agreement for the common good of these two countries. One would not be able to identify the development opportunities in the box unless the box is opened. The box is often opened by these two countries to adjust its content to reflect the needs of each country as they walk the friendship road.

As a matter of fact, this box has been opened already and the development opportunities inside are the various aid programs Taiwan has been providing to Solomon Islands. These programs are in various fields such as health, agriculture, fisheries, transportation, rural development, disaster assistance, meteorology, law and order, cultural exchanges, education, tourism and so on. These are the broad categories but the details are varied and numerous.

Also, inside the box is Solomon Islands commitment to supporting Taiwan and treating it as a friendly ally, recognising its role at international forums. These programs are at the bilateral level.

On the multi-lateral level are the regional initiatives which Solomon Islands shares with others in the region such as regional scholarships under Taiwanese funding.

The people of Solomon Islands are most grateful for these assistance programmes. Our gratefulness has been expressed in different ways and in various forums at different times over the years. One way is to invoke the fountain of honour from the Head of State whom I represent in Solomon Islands and recognise the service of persons for good cause in Solomon Islands.

We had done this for a few individuals who are citizens of Taiwan for their service to Solomon Islands as appreciation for their service.

On 26th March, 2010, the Cross of Solomon Islands (CSI) was awarded in Honiara to the then President of Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital, Professor Sheng-Hsiung-Sheu for his service in enhancing a close relationship in the field of medical service. In particular, enhancing a sister relationship between Kaohsiung Medical University, Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital and our Referral Hospital in Honiara.

There is currently a Taiwanese Health Centre in Honiara which, amongst other things, co-ordinates visits by medical personnel from Taiwan to Solomon Islands.

On 7th July, 2010, the Cross of Solomon Islands (CSI) was awarded in Honiara to the former Taiwanese Ambassador, Mr George Chan for distinguished and dedicated service in facilitating valuable assistance to significant developments in Solomon Islands.

On 7th July, 2013, Solomon Islands Medal, Silver (SIM) was awarded to Mr Ben Wang, First Secretary, in the Taiwanese Embassy in Honiara for long and dedicated service to the development of Solomon Islands.

I had also taken the opportunity whilst in Taipei in 2013 to present two Awards to honour service provided to Solomon Islands by two of your citizens. The first Award was the Cross of Solomon Islands, (CSI) awarded to Taiwan’s former and first Ambassador to Solomon Islands, Mr Chi-kung Ning. He was responsible for long and dedicated service in bridging diplomatic relation between Taiwan and Solomon Islands in various fields of nation building developments.

The second Award was another Cross of Solomon Islands, (CSI) awarded to Mr James D Chen, the Chairman of the Board of the Kaohsiung Medical University Chug-Ho Memorial Hospital. Fund raising and donations had been organized by Kaohsiung Medical University in response to a request by the Solomon Islands Student Association for assistance to the victims of the Tsunami that devastated villages in Santa Cruz in the Temotu Province in April, 2013.

Cash donations amounted to around SBD73,000 plus second-hand clothes, blankets, toys and shoes. Mr James D Chen also made a personal donation of USD10,000 towards the appeal.

I also had had the opportunity of visiting the Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital’s museum showing the transitional journey from a back-water medical facility to a modern Hospital. This also happened within my lifetime. Its story is truly amazing. There were Solomon Islanders in training there in the past and currently at this Hospital.

I had met Mr & Mrs Chen at the Hospital in Kaohsiung city. They were both gracious individuals.

There have also been numerous visits by our leaders and citizens to Taiwan over the years and vice versa on official and non-official engagements. These exchanges of visits have been purposeful visits on both sides; they demonstrate the depth, width and breadth of our relationship over the years.

I brought home with me a copy of your Inaugural Address on May, 20th 2016. In that Address, you set out 5 new broad directions for Taiwan under your new leadership. One of them was the need to go forward in enhancing participation in diplomatic and global issues.

In your congratulatory message to me on the occasion of Independence, 7th July, 2017, you said “…Our two nations enjoy a solid friendship based on a commitment to democracy and human rights, as well as co-operation in a wide range of mutually beneficial areas.”

Your remark is clearly consistent with the broad perspectives in your Inaugural Address on the diplomatic front.

Our two countries can now safely claim to be democracies in which human rights, the rule of law, peace, security, equality of opportunity and so on are values of human decency and wholesomeness in society. Both our countries do subscribe to these values dearly.

There are of course differences between us in many ways such as economic advancement of your country, the environment, culture and arts and standard of living. And a lot more differences. Be that it may, Taiwan is a friend indeed in time of need.

I say no more and thank you.

Your Excellency, it is my pleasure to propose a Toast to your personal good health and success in your visit to Solomon Islands.

(The State Luncheon was held at Mendana Hotel yesterday, Thursday, November 2, 2017)

Sir Frank O Kabui, GCMG CSI OBE

Governor-General of Solomon Islands

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