TAIPEI, Taiwan – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has told his compatriots here that he is not reckless with his heath by travelling while recuperating from recent illness.
Gonsalves is leading a six-member Vincentian delegation to attend the inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou on Sunday.
He was treated for an abscess in Barbados last month and the incision has not yet healed.
He told a gathering of mostly students Saturday morning that he decided to travel, based on the advice of his doctors.
“In so far as my wellness is concerned, I am not a reckless person with my health. I push myself but I am not reckless,” the 66-year-old leader said.
“The doctors said to me that you can travel but make sure you travel with a nurse who would be able to take care of the surgical incision –dress it in the morning and dress it in the evening,” said Gonsalves who spent two weeks ill in Barbados, including a weekend in hospital.
Retired nurse Jacqueline Browne-King has accompanied Gonsalves to Taiwan. King, a registered nurse for 33 years, is the Eastern Caribbean Representative to the World Paediatric Project.
Gonsalves said that in making the trip he was keeping a promise to President Ma and showing this country’s commitment to Kingstown-Taipei ties.
Some of his critics at home have said that Gonsalves should have asked a member of his Unity Labour Party government to represent him.
“Something I believe that would have been lost on those critics, if they want to be utilitarian, you know what it means for somebody who is recovering from a minor surgical procedure and who is not yet 100 per cent healed but who keeps his commitment to a friend and travels eight hours to London and another 16 here to Taipei by way of Bangkok?” he said.
“You think the Foreign Ministry and the presidency here in Taiwan wouldn’t take note of that? I would have said it’s a remarkable commitment. I gave my word to the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and I delivered on my word despite the fact that I am recovering,” Gonsalves further stated.
The Vincentian delegation also includes Gonsalves’ wife, Eloise Gonsalves, Press Secretary Hans King, Lance Neverson of the Agency for Public Information and a member of the Prime Minister’s security detail.
During the two-hour meeting — which began with the singing of the Vincentian anthem and a prayer by Gonsalves — the Prime Minister responded to citizens’ questions about national issues, including airport and other infrastructural development and foreign relations.
After leaving Taiwan, Gonsalves will travel to London to attend a function where 50 Vincentians entrepreneurs will be honoured. He returns to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on May 30.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Gonsalves is leading a five-member delegation. There are in fact six persons in the delegation.