Wed, Feb 14, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Parties react to indictment with bluster

DEVIL OR ANGEL? Politicians were quick to judge yesterday, either condemning Ma as a criminal receiving his just desserts or labeling him a victim of `political oppression'

By Flora Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Reactions to the indictment of former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday were framed in typically bombastic partisan rhetoric.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday urged Ma to apologize to the public after his indictment on corruption charges.

"When we talk to our supporters, we often hear them say `justice will be served when Ma is indicted,'" DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) told a press conference. "Now we have finally seen justice."

During Ma's term as KMT chairman, the pan-green and the pan-blue camps have been preoccupied with bitter wrangling, Ker said, citing the impasse of the government's 2007 budget during the last legislative session.

"Ma owes the public an apology," he said.

When asked for comments about Ma's presidential bid, Ker said: "It is like ... a thief declaring he would like to become a police officer when he gets arrested."

DPP Legislator You Ching (尤清) said the indictment presented concrete facts that Ma had the motive to embezzle half of his allowance.

"Although Ma should be considered innocent until proven guilty after [all of his appeals have been exhausted], we believe it will be difficult for him to plead innocent," he said.

"But we still think that we should celebrate his indictment, for the sake of public peace," he said.

He added that Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁) had set a milestone in Taiwan's democratic development by indicting Ma.

KMT legislators were not to be outdone by the pan-green hyperbole, however, and joined in the blood sport by blasting the indictment as "political oppression" and a bid to thwart Ma from running in the presidential election in 2008.

The KMT has a "black gold exclusion clause" that requires the suspension of any member indicted for a crime, and which could deprive Ma of being able to campaign on behalf of his party.

"Today is the darkest day in the nation's judicial history. We strongly decry the results of the investigation. The judiciary has been used as a political weapon," KMT caucus whip Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) said.

KMT legislative caucus whip Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍), meanwhile, sounded a more conciliatory note, saying Ma was a victim of the flawed "special allowance" system.

She called on Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) to come forward to speak in Ma's defense.

Hsu was referring to Su's remarks late last year in which he said the controversy over the "special allowance funds" was the result of a "historical glitch," and that no single individual was at fault.

Other KMT lawmakers were less willing to engage their pan-green counterparts, urging prosecutors to speed up investigations into Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Su, former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Yu, who have also been accused of misusing their special allowance funds.

DPP chairman Yu Shyi-kun said last night that Ma's announcement of his presidential bid was an attempt to divert attention away from his indictment.

"[Ma's actions show] that he distrusts and disrespects the judiciary," Yu said.

Yu also said that the KMT's decision to repeal its black gold clause showed that the party was not serious about reform.

The People First Party (PFP) gave cautious support to Ma, with Spokesman Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) saying "an indictment is not tantamount to a conviction."

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