Fri, May 07, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chen drops in on Shih Ming-teh

SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES Never the best of friends, the president and the former DPP chairman chatted on Wednesday about a common interest

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

In an attempt to bolster ethnic and political reconciliation, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) paid a visit to former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) on Wednesday.

Shih left the DPP several years ago, claiming that his appeal for a "great reconciliation" to end political and ethnic conflict was at odds with the party's goals.

High-ranking DPP officials yesterday confirmed Chen's visit, saying that Chen's intention was to learn of Shih's opinions on resolving ethnic conflict.

DPP Deputy Secretary General Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) yesterday said "the Taiwanese public is familiar with Shih's image in advancing a `great reconciliation' between the parties and on ethnic issues."

"In consulting Shih, President Chen is sending an earnest message that we must face the issues of national identity and ethnic reconciliation and encourage the public to look at these issues with a positive attitude," Chung said.

Chung said that during Shih's tenure as DPP chairman from 1993 to 1996, he had promoted a "great reconciliation" by inviting leaders of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the New Party to coffee to advance communication between the former foes.

Shih, currently a visiting scholar at George Mason University in Virginia, returned to Taiwan two weeks ago to receive a health examination. Shih remained in the US during the presidential election campaign.

During the two-hour visit at Shih's residence in Taipei's Neihu district, the issues of ethnic reconciliation and cross-strait relations were said to have dominated the conversation.

Shih has kept a low profile since his return and has only been in contact with a few close friends, including DPP legislators Lin Chung-cheng (林忠正) and Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), who helped arrange the meeting with Shih at Chen's request.

Lin said that Shih thought post-election instability was a result of a flawed Constitution.

Shih was quoted as saying that to resolve ethnic conflict, the government should amend the Constitution so that the Cabinet can increase its power, thus allowing more power to be handed to Mainlanders.

"By adopting the Cabinet system, the government can form a coalition government. This way, Mainlanders can share power and would not feel their sense of insecurity so strongly," Lin quoted Shih as saying.

Responding to speculation that Chen would invite Shih to serve as a presidential advisor, Lin said, "Shih would never ask for an official position."

Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), the deputy director of the DPP's Information and Culture Department, said Shih is regarded as Taiwan's "Nelson Mandela" because of his ideas that landed him in jail for 26 years during the authoritarian period of KMT rule. When Shih became DPP chairman, his ideas on reconciliation went against the mainstream opinion of the DPP at that time, Cheng said.

Shih issued a statement late Wednesday saying that he would return to Virginia soon to finish his research at George Mason University.

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