Taiwan’s ambassador to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Baushuan Ger, has denied that fishing vessels from his country that fly the Vincentian flag “are either poaching in Vincentian waters or evading tax”.
He told an event in Kingstown on Tuesday to celebrate Taiwan’s 105th National Day that it is “very sad that a few people in this country have kept spreading false accusations” to that effect.
“As a diplomat, it is my duty to set the records straight,” Ger said.
He said that like vessels from other countries, the Taiwanese fishing vessels are registered in SVG under the High Seas Fishing Act 2001.
“Once lawfully registered, these Taiwanese fishing vessels should pay only license fees and security bond or deposit according to the High Seas Fishing Regulations 2003,” Ger said.
“That is to say, these SVG-registered fishing vessels fish only on high seas that belong to no country. That is the very reason they don’t pay tax.”
The diplomat said that his country’s fishing vessels operate in full compliance with the regulations of International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
“They can never poach in the territorial waters, contiguous zone or exclusive economic zone of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Should they do so, it is punishable not only by your laws but by ours severely,” Ger said, adding, “I sincerely believe that those groundless allegations will be stopped by the wise.”
Speaking about Kingstown-Taipei ties, Ger said that SVG has always been “an unwavering ally and a vocal supporter of Taiwan”.
He noted that on Aug. 16, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves wrote to the President of the Council of International Civil Aviation Organisation “for our cause”.
Further, on Sept. 23, during his speech at the General Debate at the United Nations, Gonsalves again recognised “Taiwan’s commitment as a stakeholder of the international community and urges the UN to open its arms to Taiwan,” Ger said.
“We are truly grateful for what St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been always doing in the international arena for us.”
He said that looking back at the “fruitful friendship” that began in 1981, he was pleased to report that both countries have launched and completed together many great successful cooperation projects in SVG.
“Ever since 1981, Taiwan has been working with the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on various fields such as agriculture, civil development projects, Taiwan scholarships, ICT projects, national library, the Argyle International Airport, learning resource centres, to name a few.”
He said the two governments are working on an agricultural cooperation project with the aim of enhancing the farmers’ organisations and of further improving their production techniques, and an ICT project that will lead to build a digital government.
“We believe that through successful implementations, these projects will bring tangible and substantial benefits to the people of this country,” Ger said.
“Many young people might not even know that in the past, pork and many fruits and vegetables had to be imported for local consumption. It was through our successful collaboration that many crops and pork are now fully produced here in this country. Many young people may have never been to the Rabacca pig breeding centre or the Orange Hill Farm, I encourage them to pay a visit and try to imagine the hard work we have put together to make those achievements possible,” Ger said.
Speaking at the event, Gonsalves also commented on the claim that Taiwanese vessels fish in Vincentian waters.
“The registration of a vessel owned by Taiwan or owned by anybody else in St Vincent and the Grenadines does not give that vessel the right to fish in our waters or our exclusive economic zone,” the prime minister said.
This is the first year since the establishment of SVG-Taiwan ties that the celebration in Kingstown were being observed without representation of the main opposition New Democratic Party.
The NDP has announced that if elected to office, it would change its foreign policy and recognise China, which regards Taiwan a reengage province, to be reunited by force if necessary.
But Gonsalves on Tuesday reiterated that his Unity Labour Party administration is committed to Kingstown-Taipei ties.
“So, when you tell me I must follow, St Vincent and the Grenadines under the Unity Labour Party doesn’t follow anybody. We follow ourselves and the interest of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines… We have 35 years, and you are asking me to break? Break for what?” said Gonsalves who will travel to Taiwan for the national Day celebration on Monday and meeting with government officials there.
The discussions are expected to include the establishment of an embassy in Taipei.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sir Louis Straker, also reaffirmed the ties between SVG and Taiwan.
“The bond that binds us together is as strong and endearing as one could find between good friends,” he said.
Straker said Vincentians sometimes tend to forget what Taiwan has done for them over the years, saying that the Asian ally has helped in ever sector of the Vincentian economy.
“We want you to know that most Vincentians are still in solidarity with your country, and would remain that way. Please convey that to your government,” he said told Taiwan embassy officials.