Sat, Feb 28, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Ma snubs Chu, prompting talk of a rift

KICK-OUT?A former KMT lawmaker said he would submit a motion to have Ma Ying-jeou’s membership revoked because he is causing the party more harm than the DPP

By Shih Hsiao-kuang and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

President Ma Ying-jeou asks a question in a contest at Taipei’s Zhinan Temple yesterday.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) abrupt decision yesterday not to attend a Sky Lantern Festival lighting event in New Taipei City and his odd choice of questions during a visit to a temple in Taipei signify a rapid chilling of relations between the Presidential Office and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), political pundits said.

Ma on Wednesday panned the KMT’s announcement that it would not pursue further legal action against Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) over his party membership, sparking speculation of a party rift.

The KMT, under then-chairman Ma, revoked Wang’s membership in September 2013 over allegations he had used improper influence in a legal case.

Wang challenged the action — which would have cost him his seat as a legislator-at-large and therefore the speakership — with the court ruling in his favor. The KMT’s new chairman — New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) — announced that the party would not appeal the court’s ruling.

Ma has customarily attended the sky lantern event in New Taipei City’s Pingsi Township (平溪), but the city government said it received notice on Thursday night that he would not attend the event this year.

The Presidential Office yesterday said that having Ma and Chu share the same stage might blur the focus of the event and cause unnecessary speculation.

It said that Ma and Chu would meet on two separate occasions on Monday.

“We notified Mayor Chu of the president’s absence before we made the announcement,” the office said.

Ma’s interaction with the public during his visit to Zhinan Temple yesterday morning also raised questions.

The president asked people gathered at the temple for the Lantern Festival who the temple deity is and what saying is often associated with it.

The crowd answered that the deity is Lu Dongbin (呂洞賓) — one of the Eight Immortals — and the saying is: Gou yao Lu Dongbin, bu shi hao ren xin (狗咬呂洞賓,不識好人心), which roughly translates as: “Do not bite the hand that feeds you.”

Political pundits said that Ma seems to regard himself as the hand that was bitten.

The Presidential Office urged the media not to read too much into the question.

It is the eighth time that Ma has visited the temple as president and it is customary for the president to ask temple-goers some questions to facilitate interaction with the public, the office said, adding that Ma’s aides usually draft the questions in advance.

It is also customary to ask questions based on the specific temple’s deity, such as asking which Chinese province the goddess Matsu (媽祖) hailed from when visiting a Matsu temple, or which historical era Guan Gong (關公) lived in when visiting his temple, the office said.

Despite the Presidential Office’s reassurances, trouble appears to be brewing in the party. Former KMT legislator Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) posted on Facebook that he would submit a motion to have Ma’s party membership revoked at the KMT’s national congress this year.

Ma is free to decide whether to leave the party, but if he truly loves the party and does not want to destroy it, he should know he could cause the KMT more harm than the Democratic Progressive Party, Chang wrote.

Ma’s insistence on revoking Wang’s party membership on the grounds that Wang had threatened party unity and defamed the party’s honor belies the fact that Ma’s actions were themselves causing severe divisions in the party, Chang said.

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