Sat, Jul 20, 2002 - Page 3 News List

A `sunny boy' gives ruling party a boost by joining it

OFF THE FENCE Formerly an independent lawmaker, Eugene Jao set aside his reservations about the DPP's independence clause and decided to join the party

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Incoming DPP secretary-general Chang Chun-hsiung, left, listens as new DPP Legislator Eugene Jao, right, speaks at a press conference yesterday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

After aligning himself with the DPP legislative caucus last session, independent Legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清) has become a dues-paying member of the ruling party.

The move, though unsurprising, injects an extra dose of euphoria into the party, which has won a number of crucial votes in the legislature despite its lack of a majority.

Dubbed a "sunny boy," Jao said he was attracted to the party's commitment to the principles of democracy and justice.

"It is my firm belief that justice should take precedence over partisan concerns, as no mortal can outlive the system," he told a news conference yesterday, flanked by well-wishers including incoming DPP secretary-general Chang Chun-hsung (張俊雄).

The four-term lawmaker, known for his staunch anti-nuclear stance, urged the DPP government to strive to make Taiwan nuclear-free and to push for referendum and anti-corruption laws.

"Let's give equal emphasis to economic development and environmental protection," said Jao, who broke ranks with the KMT last year over its energy policy. "Only then, can the inhabitants of this land enjoy a safe life."

In a sign of the warmth of the DPP's welcome, Chang said that the KMT would still be in in power if it had more members like Jao. "If that were the case, there would have been no need for the DPP to exist in the first place," he added.

Jao, 45, has been representing Taipei County for the past decade. His father and brother were former members of the National Assembly and now-defunct Provincial Assembly under the KMT banner.

In Oct 2000, the KMT suspended Jao's party membership after he joined with anti-nuclear groups in opposing construction of the partially built Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

The following January, the KMT revoked his membership after he formed the People's Union (超黨派問政聯盟), a politically independent legislative caucus.

Incensed by the plant's revival, Jao launched a signature drive in a bid to oust then-premier Chang and pressured the Cabinet to call a popular vote on the fate of the project.

Neither Jao nor Chang made any mention of the episode yesterday.

Calling himself a supporter of the middle-road policy trumpeted by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Jao said he decided to side with the DPP one month ago.

"Political stability will be more attainable if the country has only two parties," he said.

Indeed, Chen and Premier Yu Shyi-kun both signed the column of reference in Jao's application form.

The frank-speaking lawmaker, however, did not hide his reservations about the pro-independence clause enshrined in the DPP charter.

He suggested the party adopt more pragmatism when dealing with cross-strait affairs, noting that relations between Taiwan and China have undergone substantial change over the years.

"It is time the DPP platform, drafted when the party was in opposition, be amended to stay in tune with reality," Jao said.

Also, he confessed he is not fully at ease with factional wrangling inside the party and has no intention of joining any faction for now.

"For better or worse, at least the DPP allows its members to make known their opinions during the decision-making process, a practice that is unimaginable in the KMT," Jao said.

While a KMT member, Jao belonged to the Reformist faction where he and colleagues such as Apollo Chen (陳學聖) and Chu Li-luan (朱立倫) sought to revitalize the party -- but to no avail.

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