Fri, Aug 08, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Wu promises to protect KMT’s image

RED FACES ALL ROUND While the party chairman battled to contain the fallout from Kuang Li-chen’s recent trip, more embarrassing revelations have emerged

By Mo Yan-Chih  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH STAFF WRITE

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) said yesterday the party would take measures to prevent local KMT government heads from damaging the party’s reputation in the wake of Taitung County Commissioner Kuang Li-chen’s (鄺麗貞) controversial foreign trips.

The KMT’s Evaluation and Discipline Committee suspended Kuang on Wednesday night for damaging the party’s reputation with her 13-day trip to Europe ahead of Typhoon Fung-wong last month.

Although Kuang has defended her “foreign inspection tours,” she was named an interested party on Tuesday after being questioned by Taitung prosecutors amid accusations that she had wasted more than NT$10 million (US$325,000) in public funds on eight overseas trips since she took office in 2006.

Wu said the party suspended Kuang because her behavior had had a negative impact on the party’s image and was unacceptable.

“A political party should put the interests of the public first. Unfortunately, the public cannot tolerate what [Kuang] did,” Wu said at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport before leaving for Beijing.

Wu said the party would take investigation into Kuang’s activities into consideration when deciding the duration of her suspension.

He vowed to keep the party under control.

“Party members’ words and deeds represent the party. As party chairman, I need to consider the party’s reputation and development,” he said.

The KMT’s Taitung branch said that if Kuang were still suspended in April she would not be able to seek re-election in next year’s election.

The KMT is scheduled to hold primaries for local government head elections in April or May.

In related news, of the 10 township mayors that accompanied Kuang (鄺麗貞) on her European trip, Tajen’s (達仁) Chang Ching-sheng (張金生), Tawu’s (大武) Wu Chung-min (吳仲民) and Changpin’s (長濱) Chen Te-cheng (陳德成) upgraded their flights to business class, while Haituan (海端) head Huang Chun-bao (黃春寶) used backup township funds to boost his budget and cover his economy class ticket, the Chinese-language Liberty Times, (the Taipei Times sister paper) reported yesterday.

Tajen, Tawu and Changpin townships are relatively poor.

The group left for Europe on July 23 on a China Airlines flight from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and made their first stop in Rome. On Aug. 4, they returned home from Germany.

An economy ticket cost NT$35,000, while upgrading to business class cost another NT$60,000.

Kuang was qualified under budget regulations to fly business class as the tour leader.

Tunghe Township (東河) Mayor Lin Dong-man (林東滿) said the travel agent mistakenly upgraded his ticket although he paid only the standard economy fare, and said he gave the seat to his wife.

The initial amount put aside for travel expenses in Tajen Township was NT$150,000. Prior to the trip, Chang pushed to have the budget raised to NT$200,000 so he would be able to upgrade to business class. Wu and Chen were able to pay for their upgrades without having to seek extra funds.

Haituan Township’s annual budget for international travel this year was only NT$50,000. Huang said he had used backup funds to cover the trip’s NT$135,000 price tag.

Eastern Taiwan Society chairman Winston Yu (余文儀) accused the mayors of extravagance inappropriate for the leaders of poor townships. Many children in the townships cannot afford to eat lunch and have minimum health insurance, he said.

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