Wed, Aug 01, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Chen's remarks draw praise, brickbats

IMPARTIALITY QUESTIONED DPP lawmakers predictably supported the president's criticism of the judiciary, while their KMT counterparts were quick to condemn them

By Flora Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus threw its support yesterday behind President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) for voicing concern on Monday about the judiciary intervening in next year's presidential election.

Calling the president's remarks "impartial" and "objective," DPP whip Wang Tuoh (王拓) told a press conference that such interference does occur.

"After the DPP came to power [in 2000], Taiwan's judiciary has made major progress and become much more impartial and objective, but a few good-for-nothing prosecutors and judges still embrace very obvious ideology and party preference," Wang said.

"They exploit their judicial authority to attack candidates from the political party they dislike while covering up for other candidates from the party they do like," Wang said, citing the actions of former Kaohsiung prosecutor Lo Chien-hsun (羅建勛) as an example of biased conduct.

The DPP has claimed that Lo was behind the leak of an official document to the Chinese-language Next Magazine concerning DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷) alleged involvement in the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp scandal. An investigation into the leak is ongoing.

Last year Lo alleged that Hsieh had accepted large political donations from several construction companies in 2005 when he was Kaohsiung mayor.

Chen raised his concerns during a meeting with former East German prime minister Lothar de Maiziere at the Presidential Office on Monday. Chen said that he was worried that some judges, prosecutors and investigators were attempting to interfere in the presidential poll.

Chen told de Maiziere that he hoped such a situation would not happen here, but he was afraid "it was very difficult."

Chen said it was unfortunate that Taiwan had not followed Germany's example. A reunified Germany found 50 percent of former East German judges unfit to continue in their jobs.

"Taiwan's cultivation and retirement system for judges is very weak," Wang said when asked if Taiwan should follow Germany's example.

"Many prosecutors or judges only know how to take exams and study. They are not sophisticated ... and that may result in unjust cases," he said, urging the judiciary to review its training and personnel system.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers, on the other hand, criticized Chen's remarks. They said the president had slandered judicial personnel and seriously damaged the judiciary's credibility.

KMT Legislator Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍) said Chen should say whom he was referring to when he said that some judges, prosecutors and investigators had tried to interfere in next year's polls.

"If [Chen's] accusation is true, his efforts at judicial reform over the past seven years have failed. If it's not, his comments have hurt Taiwan's democracy," Hsu said. "Either way, Chen should be ashamed of himself."

KMT Legislator Alex Fai (費鴻泰) said that Chen's criticism was "inappropriate" because "he has been involved in irregularities."

First lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) has been indicted on charges of embezzling money from a state affairs fund.

Chen, who as president enjoys constitutional immunity from prosecution, has not been charged.

"It's the first time that the president thrust a hand in the judiciary in such a brazen way. To remove half of the judicial personnel -- those who don't listen to him -- from their positions?" Fai said.

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