Sun, Jan 09, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Chen's goodwill must be recognized

RECONCILIATION The onus is now on the blue camp to respond to President Chen's moves to include the opposition in high-level government posts, analysts say

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The air seems to be filled with reconciliation these days in the nation's political arena following President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) series of conciliatory moves after his New Year's address last Sunday, calling for cooperation between the governing and opposition parties.

While the scene has thus far drawn high hopes and anticipation about whether Chen's goodwill gestures would result in a beginning of cooperation and understanding between the opposing camps, to many pan-blues, however, one question hovers over their heads: Can we negotiate with Chen in good faith?

"Reminded of their past encounters, many pan-blues are uncertain of Chen's words. They might cast doubt on the sincerity of his words," said Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), a researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences at Academia Sinica.

Hsu was referring to the event five years ago when Chen met with various opposition party leaders one by one, including Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

The high-profile meeting between Chen and Lien, however, was left in tatters when, within an hour after their meeting, then premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) announced a plan to shelve the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project.

The declaration dampened the rapprochement created in those meetings, where Chen told Lien that he was willing to consider the KMT's proposal of proceeding with the plant.

The timing of the nuclear plant decision appeared to be an affront to Lien, some analysts said at the time.

"That encounter made the opposition somewhat suspicious of Chen," said Hsu.

Acknowledging the blue camp's suspicions, uncertainty and insecurity, DPP Legislator Lee Ming-hsien (李明憲) said the opposition should get over it and look forward.

"How do you approach reconciliation if you don't let go of the past? Reconciliation requires an end to dwelling on the past and looking forward to the future," Lee said.

"To reconcile, the governing party must be humble," he said, adding "by the same token, the opposition parties should be reasonable when talking about reconciliation."

In an apparent move aimed at substantiating his New Year's message, Chen has kept busy meeting with senior members from both political camps, was well as prominent figures in the business community.

On Monday, Chen met with Presidential Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) at the Presidential Office. On Tuesday, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was invited to meet with Chen at the Presidential Office. And on Thursday, Chen met with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), as well as Formosa Plastics Group president Wang Yung-ching (王永慶).

"Judging from the sequence of individuals Chen met with last week, it is clear that he is taking steps toward reconciliation," Hsu said.

Heavy media coverage of Chen's meetings with these political heavyweights has also helped generate an impression with the general public that Chen is sincere about cooperating with the blue camp, analysts say.

In his New Year's address, the president said that "anything can be open to reconciliation or cooperation between the governing and opposition parties as long as it will help stabilize domestic politics, the welfare of the people, promote harmony among ethnic groups and cross-strait peace."

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