Gambia ended ties over money: ambassador

By Joseph Yeh ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The government’s rejection of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s request for financial aid was the main reason the African nation severed ties with Taiwan, the nation’s former ambassador to The Gambia said yesterday. During his report on the break in diplomatic relations with the West African nation to lawmakers yesterday, Taiwan’s ex-ambassador to The Gambia, Samuel Chen (陳士良), confirmed that Gambian President Yahya Jammeh in Jan. 2013 asked for US$10 million in financial assistance apart from existing cooperative programs. “Jammeh said the money would be used for national security reasons, but he never provided details about his request for extra aid,” Chen told lawmakers during a session of the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign and National Defense Committee yesterday. “The reason for the financial aid was too vague for us to grant approval, and we repeatedly asked the Gambian government to provide more details on where the money would be spent,” Chen said. Chen added that he believes Taiwan’s refusal to grant the US$10 million aid by the March 2013 deadline set by Jammeh led the African leader to become discontent with Taiwan, and ultimately decided to end 18-year-old ties with the country. Taiwan announced its decision to cut ties with The Gambia last Monday, three days after Jammeh’s office issued a statement saying that his country was ending diplomatic relations with Taiwan, citing “national strategic interest” as the reason, without further elaboration.

During yesterday’s legislative session, Chen was under heavy fire from lawmakers over why he was unable to recognize signs of Jammeh’s impending decision to sever ties with Taiwan beforehand. Chen said that there were no signs of anomalies between the two sides, aside from Taiwan’s refusal to offer US$10 million aid to Jammeh. Taiwan’s embassy in Banjul showed no evidence that The Gambia had chosen Beijing over Taipei diplomatically, nor were there incentives for China to sabotage Taiwan’s official ties with The Gambia. He attributed the break-up to Yahya Jammeh’s idiosyncracy.

Government to Ask Ex-Allies to Pay Back Loans   Meanwhile, Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂), who fielded questions during the same session, said he believes the former ally will pay back millions of U.S. dollars worth of loans that Taipei previously granted to Banjul.   The Gambia has maintained a good credit history over the past years, Lin said, adding that he is confidence that it will pay back its loans to Taiwan despite the fact that both sides no longer have official ties.   According to opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), many of Taiwan’s ex-diplomatic allies have failed to pay back a total of billions of U.S. dollars loan Taiwan government granted to them.   Asked to comment, Lin said the ministry has already filed lawsuit against those former allies over repayment of debts. Taiwan’s government will do its best to ask them pay back the money they owe, he stressed.