President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) apologized to the public yesterday for the Papua New Guinea (PNG) fund scandal, saying it has damaged the image of the country and his party, but denied that he was involved in the deal in any way.
Chen said that he believed government officials involved in the case did not pocket any money and that the judiciary would soon clear their names.
The Presidential Office issued a statement saying that Chen felt ashamed that the incident had tarnished the image of the country, the government and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but the intention to establish diplomatic relations with Papua New Guinea as well-meaning.
Chen said he was not personally involved in the decision that led up to the faulted deal or in the execution of the plan.
He lamented the efforts by some to vilify by insinuation, making groundless accusations and misleading the public before the truth was uncovered.
Chen said the government agencies involved in the case deserved credit for trying to increase the country’s diplomatic sphere, adding that he had approved of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decision to seek the return of the money through legal means.
He said it was necessary to examine the entire process and find out what went wrong. As Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) on Monday instructed government agencies to recover the money and locate Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖), one of the brokers involved in the matter, Chen said he hoped the truth would come out soon so the Executive Yuan could explain it to the public.
Emphasizing that Beijing’s fundamental position is to negate the existence of Taiwan or the Republic of China, Chen said China’s policy was to snatch all of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and block all diplomatic ties, no matter who is in power.
Chen said the DPP administration continued, with much reluctance, the practices of foreign affairs initiated by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and had inherited many problems left by its predecessor. His administration had no choice but to overcome difficulties for the sake of national and diplomatic interests.
Nobody but those actually involved in foreign affairs could understand how hard it was to obtain the support of allies and the international community because of China’s relentless suppression, Chen said.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Office said that Chen had canceled his plan to start climbing Yushan (玉山) today.
The office said in a statement that the president made the decision because Mother’s Day is near and he would like to spend time with his mother, who has been hospitalized since last Saturday.
The inadequate communications in mountain areas was also a factor, the office said.
In Hsinchu City, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said yesterday that there was no evidence that Chen was involved in the scandal.
“As far as I know, the president only knew about the attempts to secure one more diplomatic ally but did not know the details,” she said.
Describing the scandal as “complicated and confusing,” Lu said that she did not know much about it and urged the public to be patient and refrain from jumping to conclusions before the judicial inquiry is complete.
Lu said she hoped such a scandal would not occur again, and urged the incoming government to solicit opinions from foreign affairs experts and fully examine diplomatic strategy.