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Fri, Jan 19, 2001 - Page 2 News List

NGO squabbles over leadership

POWER STRUGGLE The World League for Freedom and Democracy has split into two, as both men vying to head the organization claim to be its legitimate leader

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fierce infighting in the World League for Freedom and Democracy (WLFD), the only Taiwan-based organization accredited as a non-governmental organization (NGO) of the UN, heated up yesterday as two would-be leaders rallied for what they said was their "legitimate" position as president of the league.

During the past week, the league has held two meetings under the same title in Taipei.

The meetings, however, were arranged by two different groups of people who claim to be the legitimate leaders of the league, one headed by the Legislative Yuan's Vice Speaker Yao Eng-chi (饒穎奇) and the other by Clement Chang (張建邦), a longtime KMT functionary and the founder of Tamkang University.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) delivered a speech at a meeting organized by Chang yesterday, marking the beginning of a four-day conference. Chang said the president's move was indicative of his support for Chang's "legitimate" position as the league's leader.

"Since there's a dispute about the WLFD in Taipei, the one which is recognized and chosen by the president to deliver a speech to is the one which is genuine, real and legal," Chang said before introducing Chen to the platform to deliver his speech, triggering a roomful applause among participants.

Chang also said later that Chen's endorsement of his position could be further evidenced by the president's scheduled tea party this afternoon to welcome the conference's participants.

"The president's endorsement means that we are the legitimate and the real WLFD," Chang said, adding that it's impossible for him to accept Yao's claim to be the new president of the league.

In earlier remarks at the conference, Chang expressed his determination to retain his post as the league's leader.

"Ever since Feb. 22, 1999, when I was unanimously elected to be the president of the current WLFD by all the members present at the WLFD Executive Committee Meeting, I have always remembered the significance of my mission," Chang said.

"Since I was elected to serve a four-year term, I will safeguard the mission and the dignity of the WLFD Charter," Chang said.

To defend his position, Yao held a press conference yesterday afternoon, claiming his position as the president of the NGO was in strict accordance with the league's charter.

"Yao took up the position as president of the league after two-thirds of the members of the WLFD's executive board agreed to the arrangement and after participants in the general conference of the League applauded to support the motion. The process was in accordance with the charter and was indeed legitimate," a press release stated.

Yao claimed Chang and he had agreed to hold the conference separately this year, and Chang would convene all the league's executive board members to settle the dispute after the end of the meetings.

But the strained atmosphere triggered by the infighting among the Taiwanese politicians was in no way diminishing as some participants remained either tight-lipped or reserved in commenting on the dispute.

"I am not sure if there is any dispute. But if there is a dispute, it really should be resolved by you Taiwanese," Ceferino Valdez Peralta, Paraguay's Ambassador to Taiwan, told the Taipei Times, during the meeting.

In his New Year press conference on Monday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂), also urged politicians and supporters behind the scenes that were involved in the dispute to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

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