Tsai, Ma’s office deny national conference rumors

By Chris Wang and Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporters

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 - Page 3

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Presidential Office yesterday both denied a media report that Tsai and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had spoken over the telephone about a national affairs conference and the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

Citing an unidentified source, the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times ’ sister newspaper) yesterday said that Ma told Taiwanese-Americans in New York that Tsai had called him before he left for the US and set the suspension of the plant’s construction as a prerequisite for holding the conference — which she has proposed that he hold.

Ma, who is on a 12-day diplomatic tour overseas, was quoted as saying that he turned down Tsai’s request because her precondition was unacceptable.

However, Tsai’s office issued a press release saying she had not made such a call and that Ma should apologize if he had made those comments during his transit stop in New York. The Presidential Office was equally clear.

“President Ma did not say, during a banquet he hosted for the Chinese community in New York that he had received a call from Tsai. The story in the Liberty Times was unverified and untrue,” office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said.

Ma has said he is willing to meet with Tsai and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) to discuss national issues with opposition leaders. He has dismissed Tsai’s call for him to suspend the plant’s construction as a precondition to holding a national affairs conference, but said that the issue should be addressed at the proposed meeting.

Tsai’s push for a conference that would bring together political parties and civic groups to discuss issues that have been dividing the country, has drawn mixed reviews within the DPP. Some DPP politicians say that such a conference would help Ma evade his responsibilities, instead of holding him accountable for his incompetence. Others have said Ma would never agree to such a conference.

In a message posted on her Facebook page on Monday night, Tsai repeated the call for a conference, saying the public “cannot sit and wait around for three more years before Ma steps down.”

Although some people have given up hope of engaging in a dialogue with the government, Tsai said she still thought that such a conference would help “keep Taiwan afloat, to some degree, over the next three years” as well as help monitor the Ma administration.

Su has not endorsed Tsai’s proposal, leading to speculation about a bitter political rivalry.

Meanwhile, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday said there should not be any preconditions for a national conference, and he urged the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the opposition to show goodwill by enhancing inter-party communication and seeking consensuses on major issues.

“If such a meeting is proposed, there should not be any premises. The two sides should not put each other in difficult situations. Bringing about reconciliation between political parties should be the primary goal,” Hau said.

Hau, who headed the Environmental Protection Administration between 2001 and 2003 during the first term of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), has accepted the DPP’s invitation to attend a forum it is holding to discuss its performance over the past eight years.

Hau said he appreciated the chance to engage in dialogue with the opposition.