Sat, Apr 10, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Welfare groups slam politicians

WRONG PRIORITIES The groups said that political tensions were distracting people from the more important causes which their organizations were struggling to handle

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Civic and welfare groups yesterday urged the nation's political camps to calm down and resume dealing with domestic issues.

Representatives for the Parents' Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, the Federation for the Welfare of the Elderly, Youth Policy Youth Power, the Garden of Hope and the Taiwan Labor Front said there had been enough political conflict and that more pressing issues demanded national attention.

"We support the pursuit of justice," said Lin Wan-yi (林萬億), a professor at National Taiwan University's department of social work, referring to the investigation into the assassination attempt on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and calls for a ballot recount.

"However, too much of the country's resources and time has been placed on the vote recount and assassination attempt. The concerns of the needy that we serve in the community still exist and need to be addressed," he said.

The groups asked both sides to stop arguing and work on achieving a resolution beneficial to all. But they offered no concrete suggestions on how negotiations could proceed.

A written statement passed out at the conference said the groups had been let down by the two parties' inability to cooperate.

"We were already disappointed by the lack of attention given to social issues by the two parties prior to the election," the groups wrote.

"We hoped to regain that focus after the election. Instead, all we've seen is ceaseless political bickering that has only further increased the social problems that non-profit organizations deal with," the statement said.

Citing examples of discord within families, at school and in the workplace arising from heightened political tensions, the groups said that Taiwan was suffering from the current crisis.

"No one trusts each other anymore. Our society is ailing," said Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如), chairwoman of the Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.

The groups blamed the media for fanning unrest and for turning a blind eye to social issues.

"The constant media coverage has made those people already upset by what's going on even more anxious. People are also addicted to post-election media coverage. No one is thinking about social problems and how these should be handled," said Chi Hui-jung (紀蕙蓉), executive director of the Garden of Hope.

When asked about the student "hunger strike" being held at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, the groups said they adopted a neutral position.

However, Chen Chieh-ju personally expressed opposition to the students' actions.

"There is no meaning in their protest. If they want to talk, they should be out there talking about issues relating to them. Why are their demands the same as the pro-blue camp's?" she asked.

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