KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – A retired nurse will accompany Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves during this official visit to Taiwan this week to dress twice daily the surgical incision made to treat an abscess at a Barbados hospital last month.
The 66-year-old Gonsalves is travelling to the Asian ally to attend the second-term inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou on Sunday and will meet with Vincentians there on Saturday.
“I am going tomorrow to Taiwan and I know some of you will be saying ‘You still have … your surgical incision, it ain’t well yet and you gone?’” he said in Langley Park Tuesday at an event to hand over homes to persons whose properties were damaged or destroyed by flash flood last year April.
“I have to go to Taiwan to say thanks again on your behalf and to be there with the president of Taiwan because he had asked me to come and I said yes I would come,” he said in the northeastern community.
Shortly after the disaster last year, Gonsalves — who was using a walking stick because of an injury to his knee — travelled to Taiwan to seek assistance for the recovery effort.
He said months later that he wore a tight, orthopaedic stocking to endure the 14-hour flight between the United States and Taiwan.
Gonsalves’ doctor has approved the trip to Taiwan, which begins Wednesday.
“… the doctor said yes I can go but I must walk with the retired nurse who has been dressing the surgical injury … to dress it in the morning and dress it in the night,” Gonsalves said.
“So I am going there (Taiwan). I am showing them (Taiwanese) that I am committed to them and to say thanks on your behalf,” he said.
“This is how government works, especially when you are in government in a small island country like this and you have to find your way in the hostile world.”
He said earlier Tuesday that he had promised Ma that he would attend the inauguration.
“… despite the fact that I am not fully recovered, because the incision is still not healed, I am keeping my commitment and I want to show my appreciation to the government and people of Taiwan for all the assistance they have given to us,” he told reporters during a 150-minute press briefing.
Gonsalves is returning to public spotlight after spending two weeks — including a weekend in hospital — in Barbados, where he fell ill en route to the Middle East.
The trip to Taiwan is on one leg of a two-week, 10-working-day stint overseas that will also take him to London.
In Europe, he will deliver the keynote address at a function for 50 Vincentian entrepreneurs before returning to St. Vincent for meetings of Parliament on May 31 and June 1.
The meeting on May 31 is a regular one but lawmakers will gather on June 1 for a short ceremonial meeting to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee.
Gonsalves fell ill in Barbados days after he complained of being excessively tired after the Summit of Americas in Colombia.
On his return to St. Vincent from Barbados, Gonsalves denied having suffered a heart attack and said that there were no problems with his prostate gland.
“I am feeling good!” he said at the airport, adding, “I know that the public is concerned about my wellness and I have to report that I am feeling good.”