Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - Page 3 News List

MOFA confident on tickets for Obama's inauguration

SPLIT DELEGATIONThree groups of well-wishers will travel to the US today: an official government group, a group from the KMT and a DPP group led by Annette Lu

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The three groups of well-wishers from Taiwan should have no problem getting tickets to attend US president-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday, but the ministry could not confirm where the delegation would be seated.

Instead of one unified delegation, Taiwan will have three separate groups of well-wishers — an official government delegation led by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), one from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) led by KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) and a Democratic Progress Party (DPP) delegation led by former vice-president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮). Only the official delegation will be fully funded by the government. The three groups will depart today and return on Wednesday.

Harry Tseng (曾厚仁), head of the ministry’s Department of North American Affairs, said the delegations would only attend the inauguration ceremony and not any of the 10 official inaugural balls or parades, saying that the Presidential Inauguration Committee forbids any non-US citizens from purchasing tickets to those events.

Tseng said the Taiwan representative office in DC expected to get hold of the hard-to-get tickets from several Taiwan-friendly congressional members and senators. According to a report by the Associated Press, a record-breaking number of people, approximately 3 million to 5 million from all over the world, will show up in Washington to witness the historical swearing-in ceremony.

The official delegation will not visit any US officials during the trip because it is Martin Luther King Day, a US national holiday, on Monday. The KMT group will follow the same itinerary as the official delegation, which will meet overseas Taiwanese in New York on Sunday and in Washington on Monday.

The Lu-led group will meet DPP supporters separately, Tseng said, adding that the ministry was not sure if Lu would meet any US officials during the visit.

A China Times report yesterday said competition between the KMT and DPP had resulted in a split of the nation’s delegation into three groups.

At a separate setting yesterday, Lu told a press conference that she had nothing to do with the split and stressed that she had never requested to be put on the list of delegates.

“The DPP put me on the list. I am going because I did not want the US to think I take Taiwan-US relations lightly,” she said.

Lu also panned a report that criticized the National Security Bureau for assigning four body guards to escort Lu her on the trip.

Lu said the law said that she was entitled to eight years of privileges extended to retired ranking officials. The size of her security detail was humble compared to that of former vice-president Lien Chan (連戰) who only served for four years and had an “elaborate” security service when he went to Beijing, “the enemy country,” she said.

The report said the US government was not looking forward to Lu’s visit, as it feared she would complain about President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration while there.

“Has the government wire-tapped my phone? Where did this information come from? Is the Ma administration so afraid of being criticized by me?” Lu said.

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