Wed, Dec 30, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Presidential Office stands by Ma’s choice of advisers

REASON FOR VISIT The office spokesman denied speculation that a trip to Central America was being planned only to use up MOFA’s annual travel budget

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Presidential Office yesterday urged the public to refrain from over-interpreting the president’s decision not to hire Lin Huo-wang (林火旺) as a national adviser.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Monday appointed 14 senior presidential advisers and 55 national policy advisers. Of the senior advisers, only one was new. They will all offer their services for free.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said that Lin, a professor of philosophy at National Taiwan University, resigned from the national adviser position in September and that Ma did not hold a grudge when he made the appointments for next year.

Lin has been outspoken about Ma and his administration. He criticized the Cabinet’s slow response to Typhoon Morakot, which wreaked havoc in southern Taiwan in August, and publicly accused the Cabinet of having a dismissive attitude toward the disaster. Lin said he had no choice but to speak out because Ma was not taking his suggestions seriously.

Lin criticized Ma again yesterday, saying he was the source of recent government problems. In a letter to the editor published in the Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday, Lin said Ma’s falling popularity and lack of political skills undermined his leadership, adding that he tended to appoint “yes-men” and blame other people for his mistakes.

In related news, the Presidential Office yesterday did not deny speculation of a presidential trip to Central America next month.

Wang said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) was still assessing the possibility of the trip and hadn’t come to any conclusions. Wang, however, denied that a trip would be aimed at using up this year’s budget.

“I don’t think any trip is planned based on such considerations,” he said. “All decisions on presidential visits are based on what results they could produce.”

The United Daily News quoted an anonymous source as saying on Monday that Ma was planning a trip because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wanted to spend the remainder of its annual budget.

The report said that Ma planned to attend a summit with leaders of the country’s diplomatic allies in the South Pacific in October, but Typhoon Morakot prevented the trip.

The ministry wanted to organize a trip to Honduras next month so that next year’s travel budget would not be cut, the report said.

Wang declined to comment on whether the office was worried Washington would use stopover privileges as a bargaining chip to pressure the Ma administration on US beef, reiterating that the office hadn’t decided on whether to make the trip.

Various local media reported that Ma would visit Central America at the end of next month to attend the inauguration of Honduran president-elect Porfirio Lobo.

Ma visited Central America in June, but canceled a planned visit to Honduras at the last minute because of a coup.

Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya has refused to accept the election of Lobo as his successor and wants to serve out the remainder of his term, scheduled to end on Jan. 27. Zelaya was forced into exile in June after he allegedly tried to rewrite the Constitution to allow himself to seek a second term.

Zelaya denies the allegations.

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