Thu, Nov 16, 2006 - Page 3 News List

KMT supports Ma, but cracks appear

CORRUPTION?The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) appeared divided over whether its chairman should stay on as mayor or quit to facilitate an investigation

By Mo Yan-chih, Flora Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, who is also chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), apologizes at a news conference in Taipei yesterday, a day after he was questioned by prosecutors over possible irregularities in the use of his mayoral special expense fund.

PHOTO: JIMMY CHANG, REUTERS

While some members of the pan-blue camp yesterday came forward to defend Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and stressed their belief in his integrity, several members of the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) highest decision-making committee -- the Central Standing Committee -- suggested he should step down.

Ma, who also doubles as the KMT's chairman, is under fire over allegations that he misused his special expense fund.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) told the press he believed that there had been no irregularities in the manner in which Ma had handled the fund.

"Ma has abided by the law. It seems to me that the problems arose because of [a staffer's] administrative negligence, rather than any embezzlement [on Ma's part]," Wang said.

Wang was referring to Taipei City Government Secretariat Director Lee Sush-der's (李述德) announcement on Tuesday that staffer Yu Wen (余文) substituted his own receipts for larger amounts for receipts for smaller amounts to simplify his paperwork.

KMT Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) told a press conference that the party would not defend Ma if he was found to have acted illegally, but that it supported the explanation that a staff member who had been involved in the administration of the fund had been responsible for the irregularities.

Resign

KMT Central Standing Committee member Sheen Ching-jing (沈慶京) said yesterday before attending a committee meeting that he thought "Chairman Ma should take responsibility and resign from his position as Taipei mayor."

KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-min (帥化民) and another committee member, Chen Ting-yun (陳釘雲), said Ma should prove that he is different from President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) by resigning.

Most party members however, including KMT legislators Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) and Lien Sheng-wen (連勝文), said they supported Ma.

"I believe in Chairman Ma's integrity ... He did not lobby on behalf of any enterprises, nor was he involved in insider trading. How can you compare a horse [Ma] with a crocodile [Chen]?" Lien said when asked to compare the scandal over Ma's fund with that over the president's "state affairs fund."

Wu said that Ma should make copies of his receipts available for public examination.

In response, Ma said that because his original receipts had been sent to the prosecutors, even copies of those receipts might be considered evidence and hence barred from public disclosure.

Regret

Ma expressed his deep regret and shame over the scandal, but said that Shuai's suggestion that he resign was premature.

After the meeting, committee member Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) told the press that Ma had fully explained the matter and that committee members had given Ma a round of applause at the end of the meeting for his honesty.

People First Party (PFP) Spokesman Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) told a press conference at the legislature that his party hoped Ma would overcome the greatest difficulty in his political career so far.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday urged prosecutors to consider Ma as an accused person in the investigation into his special allowance fund.

DPP Legislator Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said prosecutors should consider detaining Ma or at least bar him from leaving the country.

Hsu and his colleague Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) told a press conference that they suspected the Taipei City Government had not told the truth at its press conference.

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