By Marion Ali
Four world leaders visited Belize this week, three from the Caribbean, for talks with outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan who is on a three¬country tour before the end of his term in office.
Prime Ministers Timothy Harris of St. Kitts and Nevis, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony of St. Lucia flew to Belize to meet with President Ma, whose tour started in Guatemala and ends on Friday in the United States.
His chartered flight landed at around 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, with a full presidential welcome, including a red carpet, protocol escorts and security personnel.
After he was received by Governor¬General, Sir Colville Young and Foreign Minister Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, the president took pictures with about two dozen of his fellow countrymen and women, who stood waving miniature Taiwanese flags.
After exchanging pleasantries with delegates of the Taiwanese community, President Ma spent time in the VIP lounge with Minister Elrington, before moving off for a luncheon, hosted by Sir Colville at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel.
President Ma also called on Prime Minister Dean Barrow at his Coney Drive office. Later that evening, President Ma met with the three Caribbean leaders, and took part in a round table meeting, before he was hosted along with the leaders at a dinner at the Radisson Fort George Hotel.
In brief comments to local reporters, President Ma said he was impressed by the development Belize has made since his last visit less than 10 years ago. In a formal speech, he later said: “Belize is one of the staunchest allies of the Republic of China (Taiwan)… I therefore bring with me the heartfelt appreciation from the government and people of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to Belize.”
He also spoke of the warmth that leaders from the Caribbean extended to his country when it suffered an earthquake on February 6th that resulted in heavy casualties.
“The condolences and warm regards from leaders and people of our allies in the Caribbean have provided us with much-needed warmth and blessings. The allies’ timely support once again exemplifies the long and lasting friendship between Taiwan and our allies in the Caribbean region,” he underscored.
On Thursday President Ma rode a bike along Princess Margaret Drive, and had breakfast with leaders of the Taiwanese community. He toured Altun Ha before departing for Los Angeles, California.