Speculation is rife that all is not well in the relationship between the world’s second most powerful nation, China and the small Eastern Caribbean island of Grenada.
Resident Chinese Ambassador, Ou Boqian walked out of a room Sunday night during a speech, which was being delivered by Parliamentary Secretary for Information, Senator Winston Garraway at the 9th annual media awards ceremony held at the Trade Centre in Grand Anse.
Madam Ou only returned to the building on completion of the address by Garraway who was deputising for Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
She was reportedly seen standing in the walkway of the Trade Centre Annex as Sen. Garraway who is also known as Pastor Garraway addressed the gathering.
In what some political observers regard as a “most embarrassing moment”, the Junior Minister for Information choose to address in front of the female Chinese diplomat the subject of the multi-million dollar loan payment owed by Grenada to the Export Import Bank of Taiwan.
The Mitchell government in the 2004-05 period had failed in its bid to get Beijing to take over the Taiwanese loan as part of the agreement to resume diplomatic relations between the two member states of the United Nations.
China regards the Republic of China on Taiwan as a renegade province and not an independent nation state.
Sen. Garraway was seeking to praise the near two year old New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Mitchell for concluding the estimated EC$100 million debt restructuring loan deal with Taiwan.
Taipei had extended four loans to Grenada before the Mitchell government decided to break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan as it moved to accept the “one-China” policy of the Chinese on the mainland.
As Sen. Garraway continued to praise the local media for its coverage of the Grenada/Taiwan loan issue, Ambassador Ou who was sitting on a table alongside the local media association President, Cherri-Ann Noel and Congress Leader, Nazim Burke took up her handbag and walked out of the room.
“…That we have heard only recently, that the Exim Bank of Taiwan has agreed to provide to Grenada 50% haircut and that is commendable because it came in (the) face of great odds but you (the media) were there to cover it and we want to thank you for doing it…”, Sen. Garraway said in his speech.
A source who was inside the room told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that another female Chinese diplomat soon followed the Ambassador out of the room.
“At first I did not know why the Ambassador got up and left the room. I thought maybe she was going to the washroom or something like that. It was only afterward (name withheld) told me that it was because of Garraway’s speech”, he said.
“The Ambassador only came back in the room after Garraway finished speaking. I don’t think she was snubbing the media workers but Garraway and that should be noted. It was not the journalists and them because she came back inside after Garraway finished speaking to help in the handing out of prizes”, he added.
Within minutes of the official conclusion of the speeches, Sen. Garraway was seen heading in the direction of what appeared to be the washroom and was not spotted at the function for the rest of the night.
This newspaper has not been able to reach the Junior Minister for comment on the Trade Centre affair involving Ambassador Ou.
There has been no official release issued by the local Chinese Embassy on the decision of Ambassador Ou to walk out on the Grenada Junior Minister.
A source told this newspaper that he tried to reach the Ambassador but was told that she was not immediately available for comment.
However, Prime Minister Mitchell has sought to defend the right of Sen. Garraway to address the Taiwan loan issue.
Speaking to a reporter on Monday, he called for Grenada’s right to be respected if it choose to commend anyone who gave it assistance.
PM Mitchell spoke of the need for there to be respect of each other’s sovereignty and for mutual respect to exist among nation states of the world.
China and Grenada are this month marking the 10th anniversary of the resumption of Diplomatic Relations between the two countries.