Thu, Mar 26, 2015 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: William Lai talks about his ‘Tainan Brand’: Part II

Tainan Mayor William Lai has elicited mixed reactions for his refusal to attend city council meetings as long as indicted Tainan Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) remains in the position. In a recent interview with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Huang Tai-lin, Lai defends his decision, and expounds on cross-strait relations. This is the second part of the interview

Taipei Times: You have often said that your political career is greatly inspired and influenced by former minister of justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南), and have pledged to carry on “the spirit of Chen Ding-nan” in your governance. In light of the indictment of Tainan City Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) and others over their alleged involvement in vote-buying in last year’s speaker election, do you see any conflict between your desire to implement “the spirit of Chen Ding-nan” and interaction with traditional local political culture?

William Lai (賴清德): Earlier, I mentioned that the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] has a very important set of founding principles: integrity, diligent government and love of country. In my opinion, Chen is the embodiment of this value. Integrity and diligent government are values that must be pursued and upheld by politicians. The same goes for me when I face the council.

Democratic politics is party politics. When the DPP holds a majority in the council, the council speakership ought to be served by a DPP member. Of course, there is room for exceptions if the KMT — despite being a minority in the council — has an excellent candidate to attract support from DPP members. Then there must be free will, and the candidate must possess convincing credentials. However, this is not the case we are seeing here; [Lee was elected] via vote-buying.

TT: The case is now in the hands of the judiciary. There has been criticism that you are making a judgement before the court hands out a ruling. What is your response to this criticism?

Lai: Refrain from making judgements before the court rules is a principle of the Criminal Procedural Act (刑事訴訟法), which rests on the idea of the presumption of innocence, in which one is considered innocent until proven guilty. That is the principle from the perspective of the Criminal Code.

However, in my view, taking the helm at the council is a personnel matter; therefore, the idea of presumption of innocence is inapplicable.

For example, if police officers are implicated in a corruption case and are indicted, they would have to leave the post. The government’s civil servant structure sets different conditions for removal depending on what positions are involved. For example, when the prosecutor-general is indicted, he or she needs to be held responsible and step down from the post; local heads and township wardens alike would need to resign from their posts if found guilty in a first ruling.

In the same vein, given that the council speakership is a personnel matter, the idea of the presumption of innocence is inapplicable in this case, because the person concerned needs to be held accountable for political responsibility.

I know that Lee participated in vote-buying. Five DPP members succumbed to vote-buying; for those who were not lured away, they certainly would report the matter with the party. So we know for a fact that [the vote-buying] took place. It is inappropriate for us to bury our head in the sand like an ostrich and deny it, to refuse to face it, oppose it and solve it, and simply leave it to the judiciary to deal with it. I do not think that is a responsible way of dealing with the matter.

There certainly are criticisms about my decision not to attend the council meetings [until Lee’s case is finalized in a second ruling], panning me for [what critics describe as] lack of respect for the [judicial] system. However, there are voices of support as well, affirming my decision to safeguard democracy and courage not to pander to a stained system. That is why I said I am indifferent to people’s praise or blame.

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