Jan 28, 2009, 5:17 AM
Hundreds of Gambians and non-Gambians alike last Thursday gathered at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi for a reception to mark the 99th National Day celebration of the Republic of China on Taiwan.
The forum gave an opportunity for the two countries to acknowledge each other?s support and reaffirm commitment to their bilateral ties.
In his 99th National Day (double tenth) speech, the ambassador of Taiwan to The Gambia, Richard Shih, said: "It is also encouraging to note that The Gambia-Taiwan relations have been pushed to a new height following the successful state visit of H.E. Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya A.J.J Jammeh to Taiwan in April 2009. Apart from the exchange of frequent visits of officials, members of parliament, and cultural groups, the number of Gambian students studying in Taiwan has been doubled from 90 to 180 in 2010."
According to Taiwan's chief diplomat in Banjul, during the same period, while health, education and training, agriculture, and infrastructure development still enjoy high priority in the bilateral cooperation, new essence has been injected in "our joint efforts".
He added that agricultural development cooperation is greatly enhanced by the implementation of Gambia Upland Rice Expansion Project, while infrastructure development cooperation expands to include bridge construction and road rehabilitation.
"Maritime security and marine resources protection is addressed by the equipping of the Gambia Naval Force with 4 high-speed patrol boats," he said. "Training cooperation is further strengthened by the introduction of the Gambia TVET vocational training centre project while a bilateral agreement on the protection and reciprocal protection of investment was signed."
As a key development partner, Taiwan, he said, "is proud" of The Gambia's MDG performance.
Relations with mainland China
Commenting on his country's relations with China (People?s Republic), Ambassador Shih said that going by the cross-Taiwan-Strait relations, the tension between mainland China and Taiwan had been further reduced in the past two years.
"While people-to-people exchanges continue to grow, the two sides had in June 2010 signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement," he said, adding that this is in line with the global mainstream values. ?The peaceful and constructive developments have won worldwide applause,? he noted.
Taiwan's International Participation
There has also been solid progress on Taiwan?s participation in international organizations. Thanks to the invaluable support from The Gambia and other friends, Taiwan has been invited to attend the World Health Assembly as Observer for two consecutive years, and is now trying to participate in the ICAO and the UNFCCC to better serve the interest of the global village.
"We appreciate The Gambia?s support for us again this year at the UN Climate Change Summit General Debate as well as ICAO's 37th Session. In pursing these righteous causes, Taiwan shall count on The Gambia's continued support," he stated.
Deputising the minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Hon. Fatou Lamin Faye, Basic and Secondary Education Minister, congratulated the government and people of Taiwan on their national day.
She said the relationship between Banjul and Taipei has always been cordial and could be traced by the existing bilateral ties based on a strong foundation of mutual trust and respect.
She acknowledged the support rendered to the country by Taiwan in key sectors such as education, health, agriculture, and infrastructure. "The Gambia will continue to support Taiwan at all levels for the benefit of the 23 million people of the Island nation," she stressed. While assuring ambassador Shih of Gambia?s relentless support, Madam Faye said: "We will be your voice at the international community."
Several cabinet ministers, members of the diplomatic community, Taiwanese residing in the country, National Assembly members and a cross-section of Gambian community were present at the celebration.
The occasion ended with presentation of gifts to the participants by the Taiwanese ambassador.
Meanwhile, back home in Taipei, a total of 263 foreign dignitaries, including the president of Sao Tome and Principe, the prime minister of the Solomon Islands, and parliamentary members of South Korea, Kuwait, and Mongolia were said to have taken part in this year's National Day celebrations.