By Ian Francis
With fairness to the government of St Lucia, it has the prerogative right to establish and maintain diplomatic relations with nations that are in its national interest. From a vantage point, I am inclined to understand and accept St Lucia’s logic in the case of Venezuela, Bolivia or Brazil.
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at email@example.com
However, it becomes very illogical and confusing to many regional political observers and commentators on St Lucia’s recent foreign policy decision to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan which is a breakaway province of the People’s Republic of China. By St Lucia making such an ill-conceived foreign policy decision, it is letting the global community know that the nation of St Lucia, and in particular the St Lucia Labour Party administration, fully recognizes Taiwan as a nation and totally ignores the legitimacy of Beijing.
The St Lucia government see-saw and misguided policy on Taiwan started in 1984 when the then John Compton United Workers Party (UWP) established diplomatic relations with the renegade province. The diplomatic love-in between St Lucia and Taiwan came to a halt in 1997 when the Kenny Anthony-led administration switched diplomatic allegiance and recognized Beijing.
To many, the move was seen as very consistent with the CARICOM policy of one China and St Lucia forward looking foreign policy approach of not harnessing a breakaway China province. In addition, Anthony and his inner circle were following a long and historical Labour Party position of recognizing Beijing. If my assumption is correct, former St Lucia Foreign Minister, George Odlum is probably in the process of trying to resurrect himself to ensure that Anthony upholds the principle of One China, which is Beijing. May George continue to rest in peace.
In 2006, Compton’s UWP regained governance and immediately drifted back to establishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Beijing diplomatic representatives were booted out and relations were either suspended or severed. Beijing did not take kindly to Compton’s diplomatic hooliganism. As a result of the UWP’s diplomatic hooliganism, Beijing’s Xinhua News Agency quoted a foreign policy spokesman which described St Lucia’s resumption of diplomatic ties with Taiwan as “a flagrant violation” of its foreign policy.
St Lucia’s announcement last week indicating its decision to continue harbouring the breakaway China province in Castries caught many by surprise. Taiwan has only been able to maintain diplomatic relations with many global renegade and pariah states by spending millions to buy diplomatic allegiance. With St Lucia’s unfortunate decision, it can only be lamented that they opportunistically sold their political principles and previous allegiance to a high financial bidder. It is very sad.
In 1997, when diplomatic relations were re-established with Beijing, Anthony’s rationale was very clear and cited the decision as one based on principle and pragmatism, taking into consideration the global geo-political situation. Therefore, in 2012, it is reasonable to ask Anthony what has changed and why have St Lucia’s principles been so severely compromised?
Many regional observers are familiar with the aggressive tactics of Taiwan in the region, where earlier this year it forced Grenada to repay its debt by pursuing insurmountable legal challenges. Taiwan’s action was initiated as a result of the former Mitchell administration’s switch to Beijing and the failure of the Thomas administration to reverse the decision.
While the whole episode of St Lucia’s decision is deeply troubling and embarrassing to many in the global community, former OECS director general and prime minister of St Lucia also expressed wishful thoughts but in my view they are extremely dumb. Lewis’s comments have left many baffled and might very well be an indicator(s) as to why the OECS under his leadership declined and he was not able to sustain a well-greased UWP political machinery handed to him by Compton.
Dr Lewis, Castries has decided that it is staying with Taiwan. Therefore, it is very unlikely that the thoughts being harboured about maintaining diplomatic relations with both Chinas are not possible. St Lucia’s option is very clear. You either stay with Taipei, as it is not Beijing’s policy to share diplomatic relations. It is deeply surprising and embarrassing that a well learned foreign policy expert will harbour such thoughts.
Finally, St Lucia has made a grave mistake, forensic investigations and other horn-tooting about the alleged conduct of Taiwan’s former Ambassador Chou in St Lucia is only seen as a smokescreen to rationalize the illogical foreign policy decision.