Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday snubbed a meeting called by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to discuss how to respond to demands made by protesters over the cross-strait service trade agreement, opting instead to hold a meeting with lawmakers at his residence later in the day.
Ma on Thursday invoked Article 44 of the Constitution to call Wang and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) for a meeting yesterday to discuss negotiations over the occupation of the legislative chamber by students protesting against the trade pact and rallies involving tens of thousands of citizens around the legislative compound in support of the students.
In a statement detailing why he decided not to attend the 11:15am meeting at the Presidential Office, Wang said Ma should “understand the current political situation and listen to public opinion” to find a solution to the standoff.
Article 44 says: “The President, if not restricted by other articles in the Constitution, may summon the presidents of the five yuan to mediate a solution to inter-yuan disputes.”
The meeting has met with opposition from protesters, who demanded that Ma talk to them face-to-face, calling the meeting “backroom negotiations” and saying they would not accept its outcome.
Wang said he decided to not attend the meeting because the controversy leading to the protest stemmed from disagreement among legislative caucuses on the review process, not a dispute between the legislative branch and the executive branch, which would justify invoking the article.
Former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) early yesterday also said that Article 44 does not apply in this case.
At 12:30pm, the Presidential Office announced that the scheduled meeting was “postponed” because of Wang’s absence.
Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said Ma acknowledged Wang’s concerns and understood that lawmakers were working to find a solution and so decided to postpone the meeting with Jiang and Wang.
Wang said in his statement that he had repeatedly told Ma that it was inappropriate for the legislative speaker to attend such a meeting.
Wang said he first expressed his position on the matter to Ma in writing and then talked to Ma twice by telephone. He also told KMT Vice Chairman Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) about it in another telephone call made on behalf of the president.
Lee also reiterated Ma’s hope that the protest would end peacefully and that the legislature would resume its proceedings as soon as possible to ensure a rapid return to the nation’s constitutional order.
The Presidential Office would work with Wang on how he would handle the situation based on the principle of legislative autonomy, Lee said.
The protesters’ demands are that the government reject the trade pact, that the legislature annul the KMT’s ruling on Monday — which sent the agreement to a second reading without a line-by-line review by the legislative committees — and that the government suspend negotiations with China until laws are passed to increase legislative supervision on cross-strait talks.
Ma yesterday insisted that the legislature should continue to review the agreement.
Opinions in support of the trade pact and in opposition to it should be expressed in a rational and democratic manner in the legislature to reach a consensus, because the Republic of China is a country ruled by law, Lee quoted Ma as saying.