Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare has hailed the visit by the Republic of China’s (Taiwan’s) Naval Squadron to Solomon Islands, saying it underscores the goodwill and friendship of Taiwan to Solomon Islands.
The squadron consists of three vessels, PAN-SHI (AOE532) – the flagship, SI-NING (PFG-1203) and CHANG-CHIEN (PFG-1109) with 742 naval officers, sailors and midshipmen aboard. This is the 14th visit of its kind since 1984 when Solomon Islands and Taiwan established diplomatic ties.
The Prime Minister made the remarks last night at a cocktail reception aboard PAN-SHI at the Honiara Port. The reception was co-hosted by the navy squadron commander Rear Admiral Cheng-Kuo Chiang and the Taiwanese Ambassador to Solomon Islands, His Excellency Roger Luo in appreciation of the invitation by the Solomon Islands Government for the naval squadron to visit and also to celebrate the robust Taiwan-Solomon Islands relationship.
“The visit by the naval squadron highlights the goodwill and friendship of the Taiwanese people towards us.”
He said the SI-Taiwan friendship established more than three decades ago is premised on values and principles which the two countries firmly believe in and share.
“These are values and principles that are enshrined in the United Nations Charters and Conventions,” the Prime Minister emphasised.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the visit by the naval squadron also bridges the cultural and geographical gaps by promoting better understanding between Taiwanese and Solomon Islanders.
He said it also demonstrates the two countries’ ongoing commitment to the universal values of justice, peace and respect for the common good of humanity.
Furthermore, he said the naval squadron visit is a reminder of the special relationship between the two countries which remained unmovable ‘through thick and thin.’
Elaborating on this special relationship, the Prime Minister said, “The People and Government of the Republic of China were the early players in the stabilisation and restoration of peace in Solomon Islands in Year 2000.
“You (Taiwan) came when Solomon Islands needed a friend to hold it together and provided the much needed budgetary support during the height of the unrest to keep the machinery of government going through the provision of a monthly grant of USD$2-Million.
“It was literally a hands-to-mouth situation because government revenue was severely affected.”
“Taiwan’s strategic assistance through the Exim Bank loan also made it possible for the then government to get the (ethnic tension) warring parties together in pursuit of the way forward to discussing peace. This culminated in the convening of the Townsville Peace Talks.”
Turning to Taiwan’s development assistance to Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Sogavare said Taiwan is one of the big players in Solomon Islands development efforts.
“Taiwan’s assistance goes directly to the rural areas- villages- where more than 80 percent of our people live. It supports and strengthens our peoples’ livelihood through income-generation, green projects and education.”
Elaborating on Taiwan’s educational support, the Prime Minister said, “I am proud that every year we have students graduating and coming back from Taiwan who can speak Mandarin which has become more important now as a language of business. In that way Taiwan prepares our young men and women to live in fast changing times.”
The Taiwanese Ambassador to Solomon Islands, His Excellency Roger Luo in turn welcomed the Taiwanese Naval Squadron to Solomon Islands.
He said the naval officers brought with them not only warm greetings from Taiwan, but kind donations of more than 33,000 yards of fabrics, 27 hospital trolleys and other medical supplies as well as 50 footballs for the Solomon Islands Football Federation. His Excellency and Commander CHIANG jointly presented these donations to Prime Minister Sogavare at the cocktail reception.
Ambassador Luo said the naval squadron visit and the kind donations are testament of the longstanding cordial relationship between Solomon Islands and Taiwan. “Our two nations have been supporting each other in various ways.”
He said further to demonstrating the strong bond between Solomon Islands and Taiwan, the three-day naval visit this year brought love and friendship to the people of Solomon Islands all the way from Taiwan.
The ambassador took the opportunity to also thank Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare and the Democratic Coalition for Change Government for their staunch support to the Solomon Islands-Taiwan relationship.
He acknowledged the support rendered by the Solomon Islands Government and other agencies, including the Solomon Islands Ports Authority and the local media to the naval squadron during their visit in Honiara.
The naval squadron left the country today. They were farewelled on departure by the Minister for Culture and Tourism, Hon Bartholomew Parapolo.