Although they were sitting just an aisle away, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) were worlds apart as they attended an event at the Presidential Office in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).
TV footage showed Lee being welcomed by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) at the auditorium before being escorted to his seat next to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Many guests came over to greet Lee and shook hands.
Soong, who came in later, passed by Lee and went straight to his seat, also on the front row, but at the other end of the aisle.
The enmity between Lee and Soong runs deep. It stems from the downsizing of the Taiwan Provincial Government, when Soong was governor. The two engaged in a war of words, calling each other “thief.”
While Soong made up with former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and put the Chung Hsing Bills Finance case (興票案) behind him, Soong and Lee still dislike each other.
The Chung Hsing Bills Finance case is believed to have led to Soong’s defeat in his presidential bid.
Ma said Chiang had helped cultivate his political character and that he learned much from his leadership and decisiveness while serving as his English interpreter and secretary.
Ma said that during his nearly seven years under Chiang he realized that great feats were usually made by people with great character, vision and resolution.
There was no better way to commemorate Chiang than following in his footsteps and exerting oneself to serve the country and its people, he said. To remember Chiang is to “remind ourselves how sacred and grave the responsibility is that the people have entrusted upon him and his administration,” he said.
Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), who delivered a speech at the event, called for determination and public support for the administration.
Siew said that while the “six major construction projects” initiated by Chiang in 1974 took up 13 percent of GDP, the four-year, NT$500 billion (US$17.76 billion) “i-Taiwan 12 infrastructure package” amounted to 1 percent.
If other public investments were included, they represent only 6 percent of GDP this year, he said, nearly half that of the “10 major construction projects” during Chiang’s administration.
“As the economic situation is much worse than it was 60 years ago, it was urgent to begin the projects and we must be determined to implement them in a bid to revive the economy,” he said.
Siew said it took the Chiang administration only three months from the first energy crisis to the proposal of the “10 major construction projects.”
He said he hoped the public and legislature would support the administration’s economic stimulus plan, adding that success hinged on whether the government was serious about executing the plans.
Finally, Siew urged the public to support the administration and jointly tackle the economic crisis. He said Chiang once said that the “10 major construction projects” were not only the construction project of the government, but also that of the country and the people.
“The completion of those projects makes us realize that any major government project requires the might and support of the people,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday criticized the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government for ignoring the efforts of Taiwanese in the country’s democratization and giving all the credit to the former president.