Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators and other opposition lawmakers yesterday boycotted Premier Jiang Yi-huah’s (江宜樺) scheduled report to the Legislative Yuan on the opening day of its new session because of his refusal to apologize for comments they said showed contempt for the legislature.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) announced the meeting adjourned yesterday evening after an inter-party negotiation failed to reach a consensus because of the uproar over the strife between Wang, Jiang and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
During the negotiations, opposition lawmakers said Jiang should not be allowed to make his report without apologizing to the legislature first.
The DPP also submitted four extra demands: the abolishment of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID), suspension of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant’s construction, cancelation of the scheduled electricity rate hike and for Jiang to report to the legislature about alleged illegal wiretapping.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus and Jiang disagreed with the demands.
“Jiang deserves such treatment because he infringed on the constitutional mechanism by saying that Wang was ‘incompetent’ and endorsed a similar accusation by Ma against Wang in a press conference,” DPP caucus director-general Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) told a news conference.
Gao said the DPP boycotted Jiang’s report to uphold legislative dignity and the constitutional principle of separation of powers, not as a sign of support for Wang.
Wang, who Ma has accused of improper lobbying and urged to resign as speaker, subsequently had his KMT membership revoked, a move that would require him to give up his legislator-at-large seat.
Many people view the incident as the Ma, who also serves as KMT chairman, persecuting and trying to purge Wang from the party and the legislature.
Jiang got caught up in the uproar when he was quoted in an interview as saying that the administration “was ready to face a legislature without Wang’s leadership.”
However, yesterday morning he denied making the comment, saying that his remarks had been “distorted by the media.”
“It was like saying that the government would be ready for the next typhoon, whether one makes landing or not,” he said.
With the negotiation at the legislature lasting almost the whole day, the plenary session fell idle. The highlight of the day appeared to be the national affairs forum that took place before Jiang was to deliver his report.
Sixteen of the 18 lawmakers who spoke at the forum, in which each speaker had a two-minute time limit, were DPP legislators and four of them played a video clip of Ma commenting in 2006 on the corruption allegations surrounding then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
“When you have an approval rating of 18 percent, you should have a sense of shame and step down even if you did not commit any crime. That is how you win respect,” said Ma, who was Taipei mayor at the time
That comment has come back to haunt Ma over the past week, after an opinion poll showed his approval rating has dropped to 9.2 percent.
DPP lawmakers, all of whom wore black yesterday to indicate they were mourning the “sabotage of the Constitution,” also held up a large banner, which read: “Ma-Jiang administration destroyed the Constitution. Jiang should apologize and resign” as Jiang was expected to deliver his report.
People First Party Legislator Thomas Lee (李桐豪) said his party agreed with the DPP on this issue.
“The Executive Yuan should not participate in political strife. Under the principle of legislative autonomy, Wang’s behavior should be handled by the legislature’s own disciplinary committee,” Lee said.
Various groups protested outside the legislature, with some demanding that Ma and Jiang step down, while others, wearing red shirts, criticized Wang and praised Ma as a “corruption-buster.”
Jiang’s policy address, which because of the boycott was submitted in writing to the legislature, made no mention of plans to put the continued construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), to a referendum, something the KMT had said would be one of its major policy initiatives this year.
The 18-page report highlighted the Executive Yuan’s focal points for the new legislative session, which runs through the end of this year.
Compared with Jiang’s last policy report to the legislature in March, when the proposed referendum on the power plant took up two pages, the referendum plan was conspicuously absent.
However, Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) said that the Executive Yuan’s policy to push for a referendum on the plant “remained unchanged.”
With a growing majority of the population voicing dissatisfaction with the issue and the delay-plagued plant, Jiang’s Cabinet has been struggling to force the referendum proposal through the legislature since the premier broached the idea soon after assuming his post in February.
The ongoing spat between Ma and Wang over the latter’s alleged use of improper influence in a legal case, which has sparked fears of a split in the KMT, further complicated the situation.
KMT Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華), who is close to Wang, recently decided to withdraw the referendum proposal he initiated, allegedly as a sign of unhappiness with Ma’s handling of Wang’s case, but Lee’s withdrawal was rejected by the KMT at a meeting of the legislature’s Procedure Committee.
“The proposed referendum was endorsed by the KMT at a caucus meeting and Lee does not have the right to just withdraw it without the KMT’s approval,” KMT caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) said.
Lee said that his effort to withdraw the proposal had nothing to do with Wang, it was simply because the Executive Yuan would not be able to complete all the necessary safety tests to ensure the plant’s safe operation before a referendum is held.
“To be honest, I am afraid that the Executive Yuan will not be able to complete all the necessary safety tests before June next year,” he said.