Mon, Aug 14, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen pledges to reflect, start over

FREEDOM FIGHTER The president said he respects freedom of speech, despite the media's unrelenting criticism of him and the government

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday said he is willing to apologize for the poor performance of his administration over the years, reflect on what he could do better and start again.

"In a democracy, society is diverse and opinions are different," he said. "It is like when different people appreciate a precious piece of rhodonite. The stone looks different at different times, with different states of mind and by different people."

Chen made the remark yesterday morning while meeting with local leaders in Hualien, which used to be famous for its carvings of rhodonite and marble.

Taiwan has run into a familiar list of problems in the process of transforming from an authoritarian regime to a democracy, Chen said.

"I firmly believe that the current chaotic situation will be over," he said. "Some people want me to resign and I'll leave the matter to the people. Only the people can decide whether I should step down."

During the remainder of his term, Chen said he is willing to bear the cross of persecution for the sake of the nation.

"It is like mountain climbing. I am leading the way in the front and I want the people behind me to have an easier climb," he said. "Although I may suffer cuts or even bleed along the way, I don't mind. It is not a problem that A-bian [Chen's nickname] gets hurt."

Despite the media's unrelenting criticism of him and his administration, Chen said he firmly respects press freedom and freedom of speech, and would rather be criticized than suppress the media as the former regime did.

Chen said that some people believe he would be willing to sacrifice free speech, but it is his fundamental belief that freedom must be upheld and he will be proud to have his role in the defense of free speech recorded in the nation's history books.

Meanwhile, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said yesterday afternoon that it did not make sense to ask Chen to step down after the legislative campaign to recall him failed.

"I will continue to carry out my constitutional duty and assist the president," Lu said in Taichung.

She was refering to an opinion poll conducted by the Chinese-language United Daily News on Saturday, in which 61 percent of the respondents said that they could accept Lu taking over if Chen resigned.

Speaking at a different venue later yesterday, the vice president said the country is in a state of "unprecedented calamity" and called on all parties to work together for a better future.

"I hope both the ruling and opposition parties put aside their differences and pray for our mother, Taiwan," she said. "I hope political parties stop engaging in confrontation and build a sustainable Taiwan."

Taking Israel and Lebanon as an example, Lu said that she would hate to see the nation plunge into catastrophe if political parties continue to undertake political fighting.

Lu said that her desire to see a better future for the country was one of the main reasons that she initiated the "blue sky, green land, good Taiwan" alliance.

Established on Aug. 4, the alliance hosted its first round of forums on the same day to discuss how to eliminate corruption and how the government can function more effectively.

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