Retired generals and veterans yesterday pledged support for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) at a large-scale campaign event in Taipei and called for unity in the wake of rumors that People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) could enter the presidential election.
The more than 600 veterans and retired generals in attendance were led by former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) and former army commander-in-chief general Chen Cheng-hsiang (陳鎮湘).
Voicing unwavering support for Ma and his running mate, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), on behalf of veterans’ groups, Hau praised Ma for his integrity and competence, but also took issue with what he called the president’s lack of attention to veterans issues.
“I am not fully satisfied with what President Ma has done over the past three years ... I am not happy that he cut the year-end bonus given to retired generals. However, these are small problems. Military veterans care about the big issues and we will -support President Ma’s re-election bid because he has handled national issues well,” Hau said at the Armed Forces Officers’ Club.
Chen criticized Soong’s pledge to join the presidential race if he successfully collects 1 million signatures in a petition, saying that pan-blue groups, including many veterans who have been supportive of Soong and the PFP, would only support the Ma-Wu ticket in January’s presidential election.
“I believe Mr Soong will make the right decision for the sake of pan-blue unity. He has been an ally of the pan-blue camp, and I hope he will continue to be a good comrade and friend,” Chen said.
Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) echoed Chen’s comments yesterday at a separate setting. Describing Soon.g as an old friend, Wu stressed the importance of unity in the pan-blue camp and urged the PFP chairman to make the wise decision.
“I expect and believe that Mr Soong has enough wisdom and experience to make the right call,” he said after voting in the KMT’s Central Standing Committee election yesterday.
Amid non-stop chanting of campaign slogans including “Victory for Ma Ying-jeou” and patriotic songs, Ma shook hands with many of the veterans in attendance as he walked into the packed room, and promised to step up efforts to combat corruption.
“With your passion and support, I am confident that we will definitely win the presidential election ... I promised to build a clean government and combat corruption three years ago and the -government will continue its efforts in those areas in the future,” he said.
PFP spokesman Wu Kun-yu (吳崑玉) yesterday shrugged off veteran groups’ pledges of support for Ma, saying that Soong continued to enjoy considerable support from military veterans.
“Support for Ma from some retired generals does not represent the intentions of all former military personnel. The PFP respects the opinions of those veterans, but they should also respect Mr Soong’s right to run for the presidency,” he said.