Tue, Mar 18, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Trade pact review meeting cut short

NO POINTS OF ORDER:Lawmakers spent the time allotted to the service trade pact review meeting chanting slogans and verbally attacking each other

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Reporters at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday film scuffling lawmakers during a joint committee session to screen the cross-strait service trade agreement.

Photo: CNA

The controversial cross-strait service trade agreement was sent to the Legislative Yuan’s plenary session yesterday without a single minute of deliberation in a joint committee review meeting that was marred by physical and verbal confrontations among pan-blue and pan-green camp lawmakers as both sides accused each other of lacking “democratic maturity.”

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) lawmakers had occupied the meeting room’s podium since noon yesterday and prevented Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠) from presiding over the meeting, which was called off after three hours without actually commencing.

“Chang had no choice but to announce the conclusion of the meeting and send the pact to the plenary, as the legislative committee had failed to screen the agreement within the required time of three months,” KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) told a press conference after the meeting.

As the screening of the pact would be deemed complete after one day, the scheduled three-day review will not be held tomorrow and on Thursday, Lin said.

Lawmakers from both sides spent the time allotted to the meeting chanting slogans and taking verbal jabs at each other.

DPP lawmakers, led by Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉), and Chang briefly got into a physical confrontation.

Chang was reluctant to make the decision to send the pact to the plenary session because the DPP had been blocking the proceeding, but the decision was legal, Lin said, adding that Chang was tackled to the ground by DPP lawmakers when he was trying to convene the meeting.

The DPP refused to acknowledge the legality of the KMT’s unilateral decision, as Chang did not make his announcement on the podium and no one heard what he said, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said at a separate news conference.

In response to the KMT’s violation of a previously reached inter-party consensus that the deal must be reviewed clause-by-clause in the Legislative Yuan, DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said the DPP caucus would boycott the plenary session today, adding that the DPP would not rule out other measures to “paralyze” the legislature.

Even if the agreement is successfully sent to the plenary session for its second reading, the opposition lawmakers have the right to review it line-by-line as per previous consensus, Chen said.

Yesterday marked the third day that the joint committee review made no progress following a two-day review session convened by Chen Chi-mai last week.

The KMT caucus, which said the DPP’s boycott yesterday was “unacceptable,” disrupted the meeting last week.

Because the DPP did not recognize the legality of yesterday’s meeting, Chen said he would try to convene another review meeting next week.

The KMT’s reasoning for sending the pact to the plenary was incorrect, Chen said, as current regulations only stipulated that executive orders that fail to complete a committee review within three months of the plenary session be assigned to the committee.

“The agreement is not an executive order,” Chen said.

DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) issued press releases condemning the KMT’s handling of the meeting, with Su saying that the party would not accept the KMT’s breach of consensus.

Tsai said the KMT has put the nation’s democratic system in jeopardy and called on Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.

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