Tue, Mar 22, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Maverick PFP legislators `disappointed' with Soong

INFIGHTING Two PFP lawmakers who attended the 319 shooting protest said the party had curtailed their actions by telling them not to chant anti-Chen slogans

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Continuing the confusion about their stand in Taiwan's political scene, People First Party (PFP) legislators Lee Chin-hua (李慶華) and Diane Lee (李慶安), who are brother and sister, accused their party of restricting legislators' actions in the pan-blue 319 shooting rally last Saturday. But the party's spokespeople said yesterday that their complaint was the product of a misunderstanding.

"I have the utmost respect for Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜). But with regards to [his decision on the] March 19 protest, we do not understand and are very disappointed," Diane Lee said at the legislature yesterday.

While attending the pan-blue camp's one-year anniversary protest of the events after the March 19 shooting of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Lee Chin-hua told reporters that he had received a phone call prior to the rally from PFP headquarters. According to Lee Chin-hua, the party told him that Soong was forbidding PFP legislators to participate in the event and from saying "Without the truth, there is no president," or "The shooting incident was self-directed and self-acted" in front of the media.

Both slogans were popular among pan-blue supporters during the week-long protests that followed the presidential election and assassination attempt in March last year. While Soong and his party's legislators were among the most active in the protests last year, the PFP declined to make an official presence at the one-year anniversary protest Saturday, saying that it would support efforts to probe the incident through legal channels, and not street demonstrations. Despite Soong's absence, over 10 PFP legislators, including Lee Chin-hua, attended the rally.

Confirming Lee's allegations, PFP Legislator Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) said yesterday that while he had received a "related call," he ignored the advice. Responding to criticism from its legislators, the PFP caucus held a press conference yesterday afternoon and said that the phone calls had been the result of a "communication error."

"I will not take back my words. I still feel regret that Soong did not attend the 319 shooting rally," said Lee Chin-hua at the legislature yesterday morning. "Soong's position [on the shooting] is an abandonment of his original position."

"The party should apologize to me. I have done nothing wrong," he added.

At the press conference, PFP spokesman Hsieh Kung-pin (謝公秉) admitted that the phone calls had been made by the party's caucus to PFP legislators.

The phone calls, the PFP spokesman said, were not an ultimatum. They were meant to be a reminder that since the party was to participate in plenary sessions with Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) -- a government official appointed by the president -- they should not chant anti-presidential slogans in front of the media. By doing so, they would be questioning the legitimacy of the premier and may incite chaos in the legislature, according to Hsieh Kung-pin.

"The PFP is very willing to resolve the situation. I hope that Lee [Chin-hua] can exchange views with the party central committee and legislative caucus. We are all family. There is no need to fight," the PFP spokesman said.

Hsieh Kung-pin's comments yesterday mark a departure from the party's original stance on the phone call issue. After Lee told the media of the party's phone calls on Saturday, the PFP headquarters issued a press statement on Sunday denying that the phone calls were made.

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