The next time President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is on a tight schedule, he should consider using a helicopter, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said yesterday after reports claimed motorists had been forced to make way for a presidential motorcade over the weekend.
TVBS cable news station reported on Sunday that Ma’s motorcade used loudspeakers and sirens to clear a lane on the traffic-snarled Sun Yat-sen Freeway (National Freeway No. 1) to ensure that the president would arrive on time at an event with a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate.
Ma was traveling to Taipei County from Hsinchu County, where he took part in the opening ceremony of a local cultural festival in the morning. According to the report, lead police cars in the motorcade tailgated motorists and also repeatedly hit the horn asking already slow-going cars to move.
TVBS said that members of the presidential detail had told police they would not have to clear the road, but the lead officers reportedly did so of their own accord, concerned that they did not know how long the convoy would be stuck in traffic.
The Presidential Office said that following Ma’s inauguration in 2008, new policies were adopted to minimize the impact of presidential motorcades by refraining from using horns and loudspeakers except in emergency situations.
“This clearly was not an emergency ... and while Ma was right there when all this was happening, he did nothing about it. He could have issued a direct order asking the police to stop, but he didn’t,” DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said in the legislature.
Video footage showed that as the presidential motorcade was traveling through Taoyuan County at about noon, an emergency ambulance was also traveling in the same direction with its sirens on. However, lacking a police escort, it was forced to dodge cars that were being displaced by the convoy.
This is not the first time Ma has drawn flak for inconveniencing motorists because of his travel plans.
Last November, lead police cars also used loudspeakers and horns to clear a lane in heavy traffic near the Nankan Interchange on National Freeway No. 1 in Taoyuan County to make way for Ma’s motorcade.
Earlier that month, media reports also showed that an express train traveling southbound from Yilan to Taitung was delayed after it was found to have made a temporary stop to allegedly accommodate the presidential motorcade. Railway officials attributed the incident to a scheduling conflict.
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