Mon, Mar 22, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Ma finally tells protesters they should go home

TURMOIL Taipei's mayor said nothing overnight about the demonstrations at the Presidential Office, but yesterday said the protesters would disperse by 10pm

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Silent on Saturday night about the demonstrations by pan-blue supporters who refused to recognize the result of the presidential election, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday urged protesters to be rational and demonstrate self-restraint, but said that it was the candidates' right to appeal the result of the election.

At a news conference yesterday morning, Ma said that he reached a consensus with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-People First Party (PFP) alliance to dismiss by 10pm last night the throng of people that had gathered in front of the Presidential Office and the KMT's headquarters.

"I told them that citizens have to go back to work and school tomorrow, and the rally would definitely affect the city's traffic and cause inconvenience to citizens," Ma said.

Ma said that he also communicated with Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) and agreed that it was unnecessary to use police force to expel the crowds.

"I believe that people will disperse automatically as long as their demands get some kind of response," Ma said.

Late in the afternoon, Ma issued a permit for the KMT-PFP alliance to rally legally in front of the Presidential Office at 3pm yesterday. As of press time, it was not known whether the demonstrators had dispersed.

At the news conference, Ma suggested that his position as the national campaign manager of the KMT-PFP alliance allowed him to coordinate with the pan-blue camp more smoothly on controlling the situation. However, DPP City Councilor Lee Chien-chang (李建昌) said it was Ma's dual role as Taipei mayor and KMT-PFP campaign manager that prevented him from dealing with the demonstrations on Saturday night.

"Ma shirked his responsibility and avoided the commotion happening in Taipei last night because he gave in to Lien Chan's (連戰) decision to appeal for a void election although he suggested to Lien that he not do so," Lee said.

Lee pointed to a Chinese-language media report saying that Ma had tried to persuade Lien and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) not to proclaim the election as invalid until the Central Election Commission had announced the election result.

"On the other hand, Ma did not demand that lawmakers and city councilors of the pan-blue camp avoid stirring up the crowds and letting them do whatever they wanted," Lee said. "Ma should be responsible for the riots in Taipei."

But Chiang Ming-chin (江岷欽), professor of public administration at Taipei University, said that Ma had acted correctly according to his mayoral status and the law.

"I thought Ma's management was reasonable," Chiang said.

Chiang added that Ma had to manage the pan-blue demonstrations carefully because of his awkward position.

Ma faced a similar dilemma four years ago. On the night of March 18, 2000, after knowing that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and his running mate Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) had lost the presidential election, their supporters gathered in front of the KMT's headquarters to demand that then KMT chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) step down to take responsibility for the defeat.

Ma did nothing initially, which some people derided as a demonstration of his indecisiveness.

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