Sun, Dec 14, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Chen Shui-Bian Indictment: KMT caucus divided over amendments

CAUTION KMT caucus whip Chang Sho-wen expressed concern that changing a law on the benefits enjoyed by ex-presidents could look like political persecution

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following the indictment of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on Friday, some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers hoped to speed up amendments to divest him of preferential treatment as former head of state, while others expressed reservations.

Two amendments to the Statute Governing Preferential Treatment to Retired Presidents and Vice Presidents (卸任總統副總統禮遇條例) proposed by KMT legislators Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) and Chiu Yi (邱毅) are due for preliminary review at Wednesday’s meeting of the legislature’s Judiciary, Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.

The statute stipulates that for as many years as a former president served as head of state, he or she is entitled to a monthly pension of NT$250,000 (US$7,505). In addition, a former president is entitled to NT$8 million in the first year of retirement to cover office expenses, with that sum decreasing annually by NT$1 million per year for the first four years down to NT$5 million.

Other retirement benefits for former presidents include health care and eight to 12 bodyguards provided by the National Security Bureau. The number of bodyguards can be increased if deemed necessary.

The privileges can be suspended only if a former president enters public office again, is found guilty of treason or sedition, convicted of corruption, loses his or her citizenship or moves abroad.

Wu’s version called for canceling all the benefits for a former president and other privileges for a former vice president should he or she be found guilty in the first trial. Benefits would, however, be reinstated if an acquittal passed the Supreme Court.

Chiu’s version additionally asked that security details be stripped from any former president or vice president under criminal investigation.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) said the KMT should scrap the proposals, saying they would cause political and social tension at a time when the public is already dealing with the hardships of an economic slump.

Lai said drawing up amendments targeted specifically at Chen ran counter to the principle of maintaining stable laws.

Despite the opposition, KMT Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑), the chairman of the committee, said the KMT wouldn’t rule out the possibility of pushing the amendments through.

Hsieh said he believed a majority of the public would approve of the changes in the wake of Chen’s indictment.

KMT caucus whip Chang Sho-wen (張碩文), however, was more cautious, expressing concern that the move could be viewed as evidence that Chen is a victim of political persecution.

Chang said the KMT caucus would hold a meeting tomorrow to reach a unified stance on the proposed amendments.

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