Sat, Aug 29, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Tainan mayor ends city council boycott

‘AT WITS’ END’:While William Lai said his boycott has helped push reform, a KMT lawmaker said the mayor was forced to return because of the dengue fever outbreak

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Tainan Mayor William Lai delivers a policy address at the Tainan City Council yesterday, as Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao, back, looks on.

Photo: Tsai Wen-chu, Taipei Times

After a nearly eight-month-long boycott, Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) yesterday delivered a policy address at the Tainan City Council as the city grapples with an outbreak of dengue fever that has infected more than 2,500 people and killed four this year.

In an unexpected move, Lai, accompanied by his top administration officials, attended the second regular council session, putting an end to his 234-day boycott of council meetings sparked by accusations of vote-buying against Tainan Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Lai was greeted by several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) councilors waiting for him at the front entrance, who chanted: “Go, mayor.”

“Insisting on pushing for reforms and safeguarding Taiwan have always been an unshakable belief of mine since I took off my doctor’s robe and entered politics. I believe a nation can only continue to move forward through repeated reforms,” Lai told an impromptu press conference.

Lai said that in the face of the graft cases involving Lee, which have devastated Tainan’s spirit of democracy, he felt that as the mayor of the city, he was obligated to shoulder the responsibility of defending the city’s dignity and thus chose to stake his political career on his Jan. 6 decision not to attend any city council meetings until the investigation into the council speaker election yielded conclusive results.

While a verdict on Lee’s case might not be forthcoming in the foreseeable future because of his repeated attempts to use “underhanded” means to recuse judges, the city has seen a glimmer of hope for clean politics in light of the severe sentences handed out to the speaker’s campaign director and vote brokers, Lai said.

“Accordingly, I choose today [yesterday] to enter the council and deliver my policy report,” the mayor said, adding that the decision did not mean an end to his administration’s efforts to promote reforms or equate it with him succumbing to vicious powers.

“It signifies the beginning of a new stage. Let us keep on pushing reforms until we succeed,” Lai said.

Lee’s top aide, Huang Teng-ching (黃澄清), was found guilty of vote-buying in last year’s nine-in-one elections and sentenced to five years in prison by the Tainan District Court on July 31.

Two other people believed to be the council speaker’s vote brokers, Lee Li-hua (李麗華) and Kang Ching-liang (康清良), were also found guilty and given suspended two-year and 19-month sentences respectively.

Asked to describe his mood after sitting on the mayoral chair in the council, Lai said he would handle everything with equanimity.

The DPP mayor had suffered several setbacks in what he called his endeavors to ensure a clean city council. He was impeached by the Control Yuan with a 7-to-2 vote on Aug. 4 for “gross negligence” for not fulfilling his duty to attend question-and-answer sessions at the council.

He was referred to the Public Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission for disciplinary action, which could include revocation of his mayorship.

Separately yesterday, DPP spokesman Juan Chao-hsiung (阮昭雄) issued a statement recognizing Lai’s endeavors in fighting “black gold politics,” which he said was the responsibility of the entire society and required long-term efforts and systematic reforms.

“The DPP will not leave Mayor Lai fighting the battle alone. We plan to list amendments to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) as a priority bill in the next legislative session to avoid a second Lee Chuan-chiao,” Juan said in the statement.

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