PFP softens push on stolen assets bill

BACK TO COMMITTEE: The KMT denied it was trying to stall the legislation, saying it would propose its own version. Li Ao pressed the wrong button and voted against it

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sat, Oct 28, 2006 - Page 1

A proposed statute that would divest the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) of its stolen assets was put to committee review in the legislature yesterday, although Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers failed to get the proposal sent directly to a second reading.

The DPP's motion to move the bill to the second reading only garnered 98 affirmative votes out of 210 legislators present in two ballots yesterday morning.

The People First Party (PFP) caucus sided with the KMT and voted against the motion, sending the proposal back for review by four committees: Home and Nations, Finance, Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes.

Committee review does not necessarily guarantee passage of the bill, as it may still be returned to the Procedure Committee if anyone who was in favor of the review changes his or her mind before next Friday's legislative meeting.

During yesterday's session, the pan-green caucuses held up posters and banners to urge the KMT to "return its stolen assets to the people" and urge the PFP to support a direct second reading of the bill.

Independent Legislator Li Ao (李敖) held up an elegiac couplet to declare his support for the DPP's motion. He voted against the motion in the first round of balloting, however, because he pressed the wrong button.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) told a press conference after the voting that the caucus was not surprised that the motion had been overruled.

He said that putting the bill to committee review was simply a "delaying tactic" by the KMT to give it more time to sell its assets before the committees finish their reviews.

"This bill has been the `most blocked' bill in the Procedure Committee. It has been blocked [from the legislative agenda] 102 times," he said. "The KMT and PFP's joint motion to move the bill to committee review was Ma's trick to fool the Taiwanese people."

If KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would like to run in the 2008 presidential election, "he should face the party assets problem honestly," Ker said.

Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), director of the KMT's policy coordination department, said yesterday's results showed that the KMT was willing to face its assets problem.

KMT caucus whip Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) said his party's move was in accordance with "procedural justice."

"The KMT is truly against corruption," Tsai said, adding that the party would form a "sunshine bill team" to promote the proposed party law, lobby law and amendments to the Political Donation Law (政治獻金法), Public Functionary Assets Disclosure Act (公職人員財產申報法) and Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法).

PFP caucus whip Yang Cheng Chin-ling (鄭金玲) said a party's assets, whether the party is pan-green or pan-blue, should be investigated once the proposed party asset statute is passed.

Ma reiterated his support for the proposed statute later yesterday.

Ma also reiterated Tsai's comment that the KMT would propose its own version of the political party law, which would include a chapter dealing with the party asset issue.

The chapter would not be targeted at any specific party, and would suggest that political parties could own assets, but not run private businesses, he said.

While acknowledging that some of the KMT's assets had been acquired inappropriately, Ma said that the party had returned assets totaling NT$2.1 billion (US$60 million) to the government.

"But if the government asks us to return those that have already been sold, I won't have the money to do it, and I can't ask the buyer to return the assets, because they acquired the assets through legal means," Ma said.

When asked if the KMT would stop trying to sell its assets before the sunshine bills are passed, Ma said that the party was going ahead with plans to sell the Central Investment Coop before 2008.

Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih

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