In this April 20, 2011 Taiwan government photo, President Ma Ying-jeou, right, welcomes Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on his eighth visit to Taiwan.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was among representatives of Taiwan’s allies in Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) who arrived in Taipei Friday for the second term inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou on Sunday.

Gonsalves earlier this week told reporters in Kingstown — the Vincentian seat of government — that while he was not fully healed after a recent operation to treat an abscess, he was making the trip because he had promised Ma to attend.

He later that day told residents of a rural community that a retired nurse would accompany him on the trip to change the bandage on the wound twice daily.

The prime minister is the highest-ranking member of the executive branch of government in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), which has maintained unbroken diplomatic ties with Taiwan for almost 30 years since gaining independence in 1979.

Before attending the inauguration, Gonsalves is slated to meet with the Vincentian community here, which comprises mainly recipients of scholarships from the Taiwanese government and other state agencies.

Low ratings

Ma is being inaugurated into a second and final term in the face of his lowest approval ratings since coming to office in 2008.

The inauguration will also take place amidst two days of mass protests by opposition parties, days after their attempts in the legislature to have Ma recalled failed.

“I will evaluate, evaluate and evaluate again; improve, improve and improve more; work hard, work hard and work even harder,” Ma said Friday as he promised to improve his governance and to consider the meaning of his low popularity.

But Ma, whose Kuomintang (KMT) government as improved relations with China — which considers Taiwan a renegade province — said that his reforms will not change but he would listen more to the people as he implements them.

The results of several public opinion polls, including one conducted by a newspaper sympathetic to the KMT, show that the public is overwhelmingly disappointed with Ma’s performance.

Of the persons polled by the pro-KMT United Daily News on Thursday, only 23 per cent were satisfied with Ma’s performance, the lowest popularity rating he has received in the newspaper’s series of surveys on his performance.

The figure is less than half of the 66 per cent approval be received on the day of his inauguration to the first term on May 20, 2008, when the disapproval rating was 10 per cent, according to the paper.

‘Simplicity’-themed state banquet

The Vincentian Prime Minister and 500 other guests will also on Sunday be treated to an eight-course state banquet to mark the inauguration.

The feast will feature simple yet delicious Taiwanese agricultural products, according to organisers.

Lee Chien-jung, chair of the Taipei Grand Hotel where the banquet will be held, said the dinner will be in keeping with Ma’s preference for “simplicity,” “energy conservation,” and “environmental preservation”.

All of the ingredients will come from local farms, in a gesture of support for local farmers and fisherfolk.

A staff of 250 persons will prepare and serve the meal.

Other LAC dignitaries

Among other LAC dignitaries who arrived in Taipei Friday were Paraguay’s President Fernando Lugo and Nicaragua’s Vice President Moises Omar Halleslevens Acevedo.

Belize is being represented by Governor-General Sir Colville N. Young, Honduras by Vice President Maria Antonieta Guillen de Bogran, and El Salvador by Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez.

Haiti, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts — member of the Caribbean Community bloc to which SVG and Belize also belong — were also expected to send delegations to the inaugurations.

Leaders of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies will undoubtedly be keen to hear Ma outline his policies for relations for China over the next four years and implications for their own nations’ ties with Taipei in the face of rapprochement and deepened economic cooperation across the Taiwan Strait.

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