A request by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to meet with opposition leaders is an attempt to “shift the focus away” from recent social and political turmoil, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday.
“Ma is better off concentrating on resolving the mess he and his administration has created, which is making Taiwanese suffer,” Su told reporters on the sidelines of a party event in New Taipei City (新北市).
He was responding to comments by the Presidential Office, which called Su’s rebuff of Ma’s invitation and his preconditions for a meeting a “political tactic.”
Su accused Ma of engaging in what he described as self-contradictory moves, such as extending an invitation to the opposition while simultaneously accusing the DPP of engaging in “political tactics.”
The president demanded that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers pass an amendment to relax import restrictions on meat containing residues of the leanness-enhancing feed additive ractopamine, but also said he would like to talk to the opposition about the issue, Su said, adding that it was difficult to figure out Ma’s actual intentions.
On the meat issue, the newly elected DPP chairperson emphasized that the DPP had always “opposed beef containing ractopamine, not US beef” on the grounds of public health.
Su once again urged KMT legislators to support the ban and not to bow to pressure from Ma and their own party.
Su also said that it was irresponsible for Ma, as head of state, to use the phrase “you never know” as an excuse for his misjudgement on global oil trends.
Since the administration allowed a more than 10 percent price hike for petroleum-based fuel products on April 1, fuel prices in Taiwan have declined for 10 consecutive weeks because of falling international crude oil prices.
Explaining his mishandling of the fuel price policy, Ma said the sudden downturn in international oil prices “was not expected by many experts.”
Later yesterday, the Presidential Office said Ma’s invitation to opposition party leaders to discuss national policies remained unchanged and dismissed Su’s reasons for doubting the government’s sincerity.
Presidential Office Secretary--General Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) contacted his DPP counterpart, Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀), on Friday to extend Ma’s invitation for a meeting with Su, who took over as DPP chairman late last month. In response, Su said a meeting with the president would not go ahead unless the Ma administration halted certain controversial initiatives, including the proposed relaxation of import regulations for ractopamine-tainted meat and electricity price hikes.
DPP spokesman Wang Min-sheng (王閔生) accused Ma and the KMT last week of leaving no room for negotiations by pledging to pass a draft bill tomorrow that would allow the import of meats containing ractopamine.
Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) dismissed Wang’s comments, saying that the Presidential Office would not rescind its invitation to Su and other opposition parties for discussions on government policies.
“We began preparing for President Ma’s meetings with opposition leaders in February and it is bewildering for us to find out that the DPP has mistaken our consistent efforts as a flip-flop,” he said.
Ma has attempted to initiate talks with opposition leaders since he took office, but former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) consistently rebuffed his approaches for a meeting during his first term.