Health tops Nauru agenda for Taiwan leader
By Dennis Engbarth
HONIARA, Taiwan News - President Ma Ying-jeou highlighted Taiwan`s efforts to help the Pacific island nation of Nauru improve the health of its 12,000 people through more diversified diet through the expansion of local production and consumption of fruits and vegetables during a state visit Wednesday.
Ma had arrived in Nauru Tuesday evening on an Air Vanuatu ATR-175 turboprop aircraft from a four hour visit to Tuvalu, but his activities were limited to a state banquet hosted by Nauru President Marcus Stephen and a news conference with the over 30 Taiwan journalists accompanying the president on a whirlwind six day tour through Taiwan`s six diplomatic allies in the Pacific.
Nauru President Marcus Stephen hosted an official welcoming ceremony for Ma at Government House adjacent to the island state`s international airport, which included a 21-rifle salute from an honor guard of the Nauru Police.
When he arrived at the Government House at 9:30 am, Ma was confronted with a Nauran dressed in a grass skirt and brandishing a wooden stave, who waved the weapon toward the Taiwan president and engaged in a militant dance and took an aggressive posture before bowing in welcome to the Taiwan leader.
Willen Dageogo, told The Taiwan News that the dance symbolized the message that ``I am the warrior guarding this territory and I extend my protection to President Ma.``
After receiving a 21-rifle salute from a Nauru Police Force honor guard dressed in blue uniforms and reviewing the guard together with the Nauruan president, Ma was awarded the ``necklace of welcome`` by Stephens and made an honorary chief and warrior in Nauru.
After the reception ceremony, the two leaders held a half-hour discussion at the Government House.
According to Government Information Office Minister Chiang Chi-chen, Ma told the Nauru president that, after discussions with Department of Health Director - General Yaung Chih-liang, Taiwan could share experience in public health and help Nauru build a robust public health system instead of only sending doctors to the Pacific island nation.
Ma also expressed gratitude for Nauru`s support in efforts to secure Taiwan`s participation in international organizations, such as the World Health Assembly and assured Stephen that Taiwan`s ``diplomatic truce`` with the People`s Republic of China would not affect Taipei`s consolidation of ties with existing diplomatic partners.
For his part, Stephen said Nauru would continue to support Taiwan`s participation in international bodies and particularly mentioned the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and expressed interest in bilateral cooperation on fishery development.
In addition, the Nauruan president asked Ma whether it would be possible for Taiwan banks to set up branches in Nauru, a request which the Taiwan president was a matter for Taiwan`s private commercial banks to evaluate themselves.
In the 2000s, Nauru had become a major world center for money laundering and was listed by the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering as one of 15 ``non-cooperative`` countries and kept the South Pacific nation on the money laundering black list until 2005 after Nauru had abolished over 400 shell banks.
After the discussion with Stephen, Ma visited the devastated grounds of over a century of phosphate strip mining in the center of the 21 square kilometer island and where the state-owned Nauru Rehab Co is engaged in a project to rehabilitate the environmental ravaged land.
The Taiwan president heard a briefing by a senior executive who explained the importance and progress of the company`s efforts, which began in 1999.
The president ended his state visit in the Nauru Secondary School, where he and Stephen attended an agricultural extension exhibition of the five-person Taiwan`s technical mission under the International Fund for Cooperation and Development together with a School Festival sponsored by the Nauru health and education ministries and IFCD.
Ma related that since 2007 Taiwan had been promoting a ``360`` plan that aimed within three years to promote production of six types of agricultural crops so that Nauru could have self-sufficiency and thus ``zero`` imports and that Taiwan`s International Fund for Cooperation and Development was now also joining with Australia`s AUSAID to promote a ``Kitchen for Diabetics`` project.
The Taiwan president said the goals of the campaigns were to promote eating of more fruits and vegetables grown in Nauru and promote a ``Health Diet for a Healthy Life.``
Ma then proceeded to help other Taiwan officials make lunch boxes with fried fish, green beans, tomato and scrambled egg on white rice for the assembled student, faculty and parents and ate lunches together with Stephen and the high school`s students.
The Taiwan president and his entourage departed the Nauru International Airport just before 1 pm (9 am Taiwan time) on a chartered China Airlines Boeing 737-800 for a two - hour flight to Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, where Ma will make a two - day state visit.
Upon his arrival at Honiara International Airport at 1 pm, Ma was greeted both by Prime Minister Derek Sikua of the ruling Liberal Party and a pan piper troupe from Honiara`s St Joseph`s High School attired only in short grass skirts and loin clothes and armed with bows and arrows and spears.