Sat, Jan 10, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Minister reserves right to sue after DPP files claim

‘DOING OUR JOBS’ The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to a suit from DPP lawmakers by saying nobody had tried to hide US citizenship information

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) reserved the right to sue anyone who slanders him or tarnishes the reputation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ministry said yesterday.

The statement came after the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigation Panel (SIP) confirmed Ou had been listed as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by three Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators accusing Ou of profiteering and concealing official documents.

At an emergency press conference, ministry Spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) denied that the ministry had done anything wrong or ever concealed any documents.

“We have always cooperated fully with investigators and we reserve the right to take legal action against anyone who tarnishes the reputation of or falsely accuses the minister or the ministry,” he said.

On Dec. 10, DPP legislators Su Cheng-ching (蘇震清), Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) and Chen Chi-yu (陳啟昱) filed a complaint to the SIP against Ou accusing him of concealing documents containing the US’ official reply to an investigation into lawmakers holding US citizenship.

At the time, Ou said Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) had decided not to disclose the information until the ministry received a more concrete answer from the US.

The investigation was launched last May after the Chinese-­language Next Magazine reported that then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmaker Diane Lee (李慶安) held US citizenship.

The Nationality Act (國籍法) prohibits government officials possessing foreign citizenship.

The spokesman said that since the legislature had commissioned the ministry to conduct the probe, the ministry had no right to disclose any information without legislative consent.

The ministry also rejected a report in the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) that it had failed to submit the documents requested by the Taipei Prosecutors’ Office.

The report said prosecutors had made three requests for the paperwork since last June, but the ministry refused to release the documents.

“We responded to the prosecutors promptly and accurately every time,” the spokesman said, citing the official document numbers and dates of correspondence between the prosecutors and the ministry.

Prosecutors on Tuesday for the fourth time asked the ministry for a copy of the US’ response on Lee’s citizenship. The ministry said it had released a copy the next day.

In response to the ministry’s comments, DPP caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) again questioned whether Ou was withholding ­official documents and filed another suit against him with the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office.

Lai said Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrew Hsia (夏立言) had declined to disclose the latest developments in the case during a legislative meeting until DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) asked him to do so.

When the DPP legislative caucus requested that the ministry forward the US’ reply to the legislature, the ministry refused, saying that the legislature needed to agree upon an official request, Lai said.

“This is what they call ‘immediately?’” he asked. “The ministry threatens to sue us for doing our jobs? This is a humiliation.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JIMMY CHUANG

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