Fri, May 02, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Opposition pledges SARS support

FIGHTING SARS At a cross-party summit, President Chen announced the introduction of a phone hot line between the Presidential Office and opposition groups

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday that a hot line between the Presidential Office and opposition party leaders will be set up in an effort to battle the effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Chen made the announcement after meeting with representatives from opposition parties at the Presidential Office yesterday afternoon.

The participants also agreed that the government needs more time before making a final decision on issuing a state of emergency in the country, which has been severely disrupted by the outbreak of the flu-like disease.

"The participants shared the view that the president should be given full jurisdiction to make a decision on the announcement and they also believe that government agencies will conduct thorough reviews for the evaluation," Secretary General to the Presidential Office Chiou Yi-jen (邱義仁) told a news conference after the meeting.

The meeting was scheduled by the president in a bid to gather together all top opposition leaders -- including KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰)and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) -- for a united front in the nation's fight against the SARS infection.

However the two chairmen were absent at the meeting. KMT Vice Chairman Lin Chun-chi (林澄枝) and PFP Vice Chairman Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄) led the two parties' delegations attending yesterday's discussion.

Chen, concluding his meeting with the representatives, said that the participants also urged the media to play a helping role in the fight against SARS.

The media should conduct more checks on SARS news stories and ensure the information is credible to prevent generating further panic in society, the president said.

All parties called for the public to be well prepared for a long-term confrontation to the spreading epidemic, according to the president.

"In this case, every member of the society has no right to be apathetic to other's misfortune or trouble," Chen told the public.

Other political leaders invited to yesterday's discussion included TSU Chairman Huang Chu-wen (黃主文), New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming (郁慕明) and Walis-Pelin (瓦歷斯貝林), convener of the legislature's independent alliance.

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