Ma suspends ‘committee of five’ meeting

TAKING A STANCE::‘Necessary changes’ to government events would be made due to Ma’s intolerance of Wang Jin-pyng’s alleged involvement in an undue influence case

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff Writer, with CNA

Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - Page 1

The Presidential Office said yesterday that it would suspend the weekly meeting of “the committee of five,” of which Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) is a member, one day after the court ruled in favor of Wang’s provisional injunction seeking to retain his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) membership and position as head of the legislature.

In response to the verdict, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is also the KMT chairman, decided to make “necessary changes” with regard to Wang’s participation in the government events, “except those that are essential to the basic operation of the government and are of constitutional significance, such as the traditional practice for premiers to make a report to the legislature, the Presidential Office’s monthly meeting and the National Day ceremony,” Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said.

“Necessary changes” would be made to other government events, including the suspension of the weekly meeting of the committee of five, which comprises of Ma, Wang, Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), and KMT Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), Lee said.

The president has also decided to meet with KMT legislators in small groups before the new legislative session begins on Tuesday, instead of holding a tea gathering including the legislative speaker as is traditional practice, Lee said.

The changes were made due to Ma’s intolerance of the legislative speaker’s alleged involvement in an undue influence case and that the president would never change his stance on the matter, Lee said.

“However, the president respects the court’s ruling,” Lee added.

The Taipei District Court on Friday agreed to allow Wang to retain his KMT membership and rights until the case is settled by courts after the legislative speaker submitted a guarantee of about NT$9.38 million (US$314,300).

Wang filed the provisional injunction on Wednesday, shortly after his KMT membership was revoked by the party’s Central Evaluation and Discipline Committee for his alleged illegal lobbying in a lawsuit involving Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘).

Meanwhile, a KMT member in charge of party affairs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that as the party no longer considered Wang a KMT legislator-at-large and legislative speaker, it would exclude Wang from all of its future events.

“Since Wang’s party membership was revoked on Wednesday and the Central Election Committee notified the Legislative Yuan of the decision on the same day, Wang is technically no longer a KMT legislator-at-large and legislative speaker,” the party member said.

“Therefore, it is natural that the party stop inviting Wang to party events and meetings that are normally attended by the legislative speaker and KMT legislators-at-large,” the member said.

KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said that the party had canceled a pre-session meeting of the administrative and legislative branches scheduled for tomorrow and decided to hold a party caucus meeting instead, which would be attended only by legislators, not including Wang.

It has been a traditional practice for the KMT to hold a pre-session meeting with the premier, the legislative speaker, Cabinet members, the party chairman and party legislators on the eve of a new legislative session, to discuss the party’s stances on major bills and national policies.

This will be the first time that the party has canceled such a meeting.

Separately, the Executive Yuan issued a press release yesterday saying that Jiang would direct Executive Yuan members to deliver a policy report to the legislature and participate in an interpellation session on the opening day of the new legislative session on Tuesday as scheduled.

“It is the constitutional duty of the premier to make a policy report to the legislature and that will not change merely because of the controversy over the legislative speaker’s eligibility to serve in the legislature,” the press release said.

In response, Wang said yesterday that he respected the decisions to call off the “committee of five” and the presession meeting and that he would continue to handle legislative affairs based on the principles of justice, fairness and neutrality.

When asked if seeing Jiang at the legislature on Tuesday would be awkward, given the premier’s repeated calls for him to resign as the legislative speaker, Wang said: “Awkward? Not at all. They are all Buddhas to me.”

“We have all worked together for so long and have been through a lot together. I will handle the situation with a respectful and courteous mindset,” Wang added.

As for opposition parties’ plan to boycott Jiang’s scheduled report, Wang said that opposition parties did loathe the idea of inviting the premier to the legislature, but that they had come to terms with the arrangement after he helped them reached a consensus on the matter during a party negotiation on Friday.