Ma elaborates on ethnicity comments

'MISUNDERSTOOD': Ma showed video clips of a TV interview he had given and accused the `United Evening News` and others of distorting his comments

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 3

Asking politicians not to manipulate relations between ethnicities to win the presidential election, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday claimed that he had never said that the nation would be fortunate to elect a non-native-born president next year.

"What I said was that Taiwan should overcome the ethnicity issue and fight for the country's future. Taiwanese will be fortunate if we can do that," Ma said yesterday at his presidential campaign office. "I've lived here for more than 50 years. Taiwan is my home and I am Taiwanese. Who can say that I am not Taiwanese?"

Ma made the comments days after an exclusive interview with China Television Co was broadcast on Monday, in which he discussed the topic of ethnicity, and in the wake of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng's (王金平) remarks on the same day. Wang said that the appropriateness of a minority ethnic group governing a majority ethnic group was questionable and would hurt the KMT in the presidential election.

Showing video clips of the television interview during a press conference at the office, Ma accused local media, including the Chinese-language newspaper United Evening News, of distorting his words, arguing that manipulating ethnic relations was the last thing he would do.

"Taiwan will be fortunate if the country elects someone who will lead Taiwan toward happiness, rather than manipulating the ethnicity issue," Ma had said in the interview.

The video clips showed the host asking Ma if it was possible for Taiwan to elect a non-native born president next year.

"Why not?" Ma replied.

Ma said he had been focusing on preparing for his corruption trial on Tuesday and had at first not paid attention to the news coverage on his comments.

In response to Wang's criticism targeting the KMT's Mainlander politicians, Ma, who is the son of a Mainlander, said he did not believe that his background as a second-generation Mainlander would hinder his presidential bid and suggested that Wang should elaborate on his comments.

"My words were distorted and it's possible that people have mistaken Speaker Wang's comments," Ma said.

In response to Ma's clarification, Wang, at a separate event yesterday, said that the local media had also distorted his comments on the issue of ethnic relations.

"His words were distorted and my words weren't misunderstood?" Wang told the media while visiting grassroots supporters in Taipei.

Reiterating his criticism against the KMT for ignoring the issue of ethnic relations and favoring Ma, Wang said that he would not discuss his presidential bid for the moment.

"The party will definitely nominate Mr Ma as the presidential candidate. I give him my blessing. And as for me, I will not discuss the presidential election for now," he said.

Wang did not join other KMT top officials -- including former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), former acting chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) and Ma -- on a visit to the mausoleum of dictator Chiang Kai-shek in Taoyuan County yesterday to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of his death.

Wang also declined to attend another KMT event commemorating Chiang at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.