LEGISLATIVE SIEGE: Wang-Ma feud reaches ‘round two’

MORE STRIFE?:The speaker’s refusal to attend a meeting called by the president over the protests was seen by local media as a continuation of the September strife

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Mar 23, 2014 - Page 3

Much has been made of Friday’s cancelation of a top-level meeting to seek a resolution to the student protests that are being staged in the Legislative Yuan over the controversial cross-strait service trade pact.

The meeting was “postponed” after Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) rejected President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) request for a discussion at the Presidential Office over the protests.

The Chinese-language United Daily News called this latest stand-off between Ma and Wang the second round of their political struggle, which began in September last year.

At that time, Ma, as chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), made it clear that Wang should no longer remain in his post in light of his alleged role in a case of reported influence-peddling.

Wang, a 73-year-old veteran lawmaker, was the clear winner in the first round, having kept both his party membership and his job as speaker, despite Ma’s efforts to dethrone him.

The Presidential Office said that when Ma called Wang late on Thursday to invite him to the meeting, Wang said: “Sure! When?”

The office then arranged a meeting for 11am the next day and notified Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺).

The purpose of the meeting was to try to find a way to end the student-led occupation of the Legislature, deal with the disputes over the cross-strait service trade agreement and discuss the legislature’s handling of the pact.

Ma’s office said that about half an hour before the scheduled start of the meeting, Wang called Timothy Yang (楊進添), Presidential Office secretary-general, to say that he could not attend and later sent a written explanation.

The Presidential Office said that Ma called Wang twice and KMT Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) called Wang a third time, but Wang could not be swayed.

At about noon, a presidential spokesperson confirmed that the meeting had been postponed and said that the president was supporting the speaker’s position that the legislature would seek to resolve the issues.

Wang later issued a statement listing his reasons for declining the meeting, and disclosed the information about the unsuccessful telephone calls made by Ma and Tseng.

Political commentators said that the underlying message in Wang’s statement was “I call the shots in the Legislative Yuan, but if I’d gone to the Presidential Office, I would have had to listen to you [the president].”

Political experts said Wang has publicly promised to refrain from using his authority to forcefully remove the students.

Therefore, Wang would not welcome being given directives by Ma, nor would he want to be seen to endorse the positions of the president and the premier, who have both been criticized for trying to push the cross-strait agreement through the legislature.