Fri, Oct 07, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Chen offers `peace coffee'

CUP O' JOE The president said that former Democratic Progessive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh's idea of reconciling with a meeting over coffee should be brushed off and used

BY CHIU YU-TZU  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Chen Shui-bian shakes hands with KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou at the opening ceremony for the ``Shih Ming-teh Seminar'' at the National Taiwan University in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: WANG YI-SUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Saying that cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties is the first step for Taiwan to pursue ethnic harmony, political reconciliation and cross-strait peace, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday extended an invitation for a "reconciliation meeting" with opposition leaders.

Chen made the remarks while addressing the opening of the "Shih Ming-teh (施明德 ) Seminar" at National Taiwan University's Political Science Department yesterday.

The department yesterday officially launched a series of lectures by the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman. The lectures' themes are ethnic harmony, political reconciliation and cross-strait peace.

Chen said the three themes set by the lecture are Shih's goals and also the common wish of the Taiwanese people.

"I hope Mr. Shih will continue influencing political figures and organize a coffee gathering of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and myself to change opinions regarding these three themes," Chen said.

Shih brought up the idea of having a so-called "reconciliation coffee" in 1995, in a bid to seek cooperation with the New Party over the election of the legislative speaker.

In his speech yesterday, Chen said that tensions jeopardizing ethnic harmony in Taiwan can be attributed to the 228 Incident in 1947, adding that everlasting pain regarding cases of injustice during the 38-year Martial Law era until 1987 remain.

On political reconciliation, Chen said that amending the Constitution is the only way to end the current political stalemate. Touching on cross-strait peace, Chen told the audience that strengthening national defense should be a common interest for all people in Taiwan, including political leaders.

Aside from Chen, other guests invited to give speeches at the opening ceremony included Ma, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming (郁慕明).

After the opening ceremony, however, Ma told the media that he did not see the need to have coffee with Chen.

"Chen attributes unsolved ethnic problems to the 228 Incident, political strife to the existing governmental system, and cross-strait disputes to China's denying the existence of Taiwan as a country. On this basis, I don't think it's easy for us to reach any agreement regarding harmony, reconciliation and peace," Ma said.

The PFP caucus yesterday also rejected Chen's proposal to invite Soong to have "reconciliation coffee."

"We will recommend that Chairman Soong decline the invitation," PFP caucus whip Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交) said. "There is nothing to talk about, and the coffee will be bitter if there is no sincerity involved."

When asked whether his caucus still insists on demanding an apology from Chen, Hwang said that was something that was beyond his power.

The caucus has demanded an apology from the president, whom they said accused Soong of meeting the director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), during a trip to the US.

Instead of concentrating on something unrealistic, Hwang said, what his party can and will continue to do is do a good job as an opposition party.

"As a responsible opposition party, we will never support the arms-procurement plan and the organic bill of the national communications commission," he said. "Nor will we budge on the cross-strait peace advancement bill."

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