Thu, Nov 23, 2006 - Page 1 News List

KMT lawmakers rally to protect Ma

MOVING THE GOALPOSTS?Several party legislators proposed amending anti-graft rules to protect a Ma run for the presidency should he be indicted by prosecutors

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, right, pats KMT Legislator Alex Tsai on the shoulder yesterday as they enter the party's weekly Central Standing Committee meeting. Tsai has proposed amending party rules to allow Ma to run for office even if he is indicted.

PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUEI, TAIPEI TIMES

A group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday suggested amending the party's anti-corruption regulations that would prevent Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) from running in the 2008 presidential election should he be indicted over his alleged mishandling of a public fund.

"I will propose a special clause to exclude the `black gold clause' regulation's influence on Ma, should the worst case scenario occur and he is indicted," KMT Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) said.

The KMT's "black gold exclusion clause," which was amended under Ma's chairmanship in the hope of improving the party's image and integrity, states that any member may be suspended if they are indicted.

Tsai said yesterday that the investigation into Ma's handling of his allowance was "wrong," as the problems had arisen out of a "flawed system" rather than "corruption."

"There has been a strong reaction [to the accusations against Ma], with many people saying they couldn't bear seeing Ma being treated so unjustly," Tsai said.

Tsai said he didn't discuss the idea with Ma in advance.

"Even though Ma is against this, I still insist that a special clause should be enacted," he said.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said he would not oppose the idea, but said the special clause should treat all people equally.

"If we want to do this, should the special clause be ex post-facto? For example, would it apply to Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金)?" Wang said when approached by reporters for comment.

Cheng, the Hsinchu County commissioner, was indicted by Hsinchu District Prosecutor's Office on Aug. 9 on suspicion of accepting bribes from construction companies. He was then suspended by the KMT.

Ma and the party's highest decision-making committee yesterday disapproved of Tsai's idea, agreeing that the move would place Ma in an difficult position.

"Chairman Ma was totally against changing the party's regulations for his benefit alone," KMT Spokesman Huang Yu-cheng (黃玉振) said after the party's weekly Central Standing Committee yesterday.

Huang said that all of the committee's members opposed Tsai's proposal to amend the regulations, while stating their belief in Ma's innocence.

Although Ma was said to have disagreed with the proposal, he did not strongly oppose the idea earlier in the morning, saying that he would allow the party to decide whether or not the regulations should be changed.

"These are our party's regulations. It should be left for the party to decide [whether or not to amend the regulations]," Ma told the reporters while attending a municipal event.

Asked to comment on objections to the proposal expressed by several party legislators, Ma said all kinds of opinions would be included in the party's discussion.

During yesterday's meeting, Ma continued to stress his innocence to party members and urged the KMT to unite in what is a difficult time.

"It would be unjust if my handling of the mayoral special allowance fund was viewed as corruption. It would also be an insult to the 6,500 local chiefs around the country," Ma said at the meeting.

Arguing that amending the clause was "redundant," KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-ming (帥化民) said he believed the public would continue to believe in Ma's integrity despite the controversy.

"Does the KMT have another presidential candidate? Is there a presidential candidate with more integrity than Chairman Ma in Taiwan?" he asked at the KMT headquarters.

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