KMT expels Lee Jye for obeying DPP

OUTSIDE THE PARTY: The defense minister said that having his KMT membership canceled would enable him to do his job properly, in the absence of political shackles

By Jimmy Chuang and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH AFP

Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 1

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday revoked Defense Minister Lee Jye's (李傑) party membership, accusing him of "fawning" over the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government and seriously damaging the KMT's reputation.

"Lee has said that he only listened to what the ruling party said. Such comments seriously jeopardize ... military ethics," the KMT's Evaluation and Discipline Committee said in a written statement yesterday.

The committee had decided to revoke Lee's membership at a meeting on Wednesday, but the decision was only announced yesterday.

As the country's highest-ranking military officer and a KMT member, Lee should not have made disrespectful comments about former KMT chairman Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), the committee said.

"Lee showed disrespect for the [late party] chairman. He is an opportunist who is out to please those in power. He surrendered to the ruling party's political ideologies by saying that `I listen to whichever party is in power,'" the KMT said in a statement.

"The KMT decided to revoke his membership because he has not only violated the military's code of ethics ... but also triggered attacks from the public and damaged the party's reputation," it said.

The defense ministry last month ordered the removal of hundreds of statues of Chiang from military bases despite strong protest from the KMT, which denounced the move as part of efforts from the government to sever the nation's "Chinese roots."

Lee has denied claims that he took the initiative to remove the statues and said they were only "temporarily moved indoors for storage."

The KMT also accused the minister of pandering to the whims of those in power and fawning over the DPP government.

The party decided to revoke Lee's membership as his comments and actions have met with harsh criticism from voters and seriously tarnished the KMT's image, the committee said.

Lee responded to his expulsion at a legislative session yesterday.

"We recognize former president Chiang's contributions to the military. ... I regret the KMT's decision, but I accept it," he said.

Lee said he was sorry that he had been expelled from the KMT, but added that he would not consider an offer from the DPP to join the ruling party at this moment.

When the KMT's legislative caucus announced Lee's expulsion yesterday, DPP Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) responded by saying that she would invite Lee to join the DPP.

"I am sorry about what they [the KMT] did, but I am also thankful that they did it. It came at the right time, because someone in my job should not be concerned with politics," Lee said.

"Although I do not understand why the KMT would do this to me, I will accept the party's decision. In any case, it will be easier for me to do my job properly if I do not belong to any political party," Lee said.