President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday called for social reconciliation, cross-party cooperation and peace across the Taiwan Strait in his New Year’s Day address.
Acknowledging the public dissatisfaction that led to the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) landslide defeat at the polls in November, the president said he was willing “to take whatever blame there may be.”
“If we who are responsible for governing the country fail to critically assess our performance and find ways to dispel dissatisfaction and antagonism, society will not remain at peace for long,” he said.
The president said he understood public clamor for reform, and the government would focus on promoting reconciliation, cooperation between the ruling and opposition camps, and maintaining cross-strait peace.
Referring to the student protests early last year, Ma said it was “a good thing when seen from a long-term perspective,” because it shows that the younger generation is concerned about society.”
Known as the Sunflower movement, protesters occupied the legislative chamber in March and April to voice their opposition to the government’s opaque handling of a proposed service trade agreement with China.
Ma said the economy has regained momentum, but young people are still facing “tepid economic and wage growth.”
As a response to the energetic activism and social discontent with policymaking last year, he said the government “welcomes diverse opinions in a process marked by open access to information, transparent decisionmaking and a more accessible interface.”
Calling for cooperation between the different political camps, the president said the nation “cannot afford the luxury of disunity.”
“Improving relations between the two [camps] may take time, but Taiwan faces too many pressing matters that must be dealt with over the next year and more. There is no more time to waste,” he said.
He said he would support political dialogue or cooperation in any form and welcome a national affairs conference “on any issue” to help ease tensions.
Ma, who has largely focused on the peaceful development of cross-strait relations during his time in office, reiterated that the nation “will continue to maintain the ‘status quo’ of no unification, no independence and no use of force under the framework of the ROC [Republic of China] Constitution and on the basis of the ‘1992 consensus.’”
He added that there have been “concrete results of the gradual institutionalization of cross-strait relations [achieved in] the past six-and-a-half years.”
Ma’s “goodwill speech” notwithstanding, political pundits and lawmakers appear to be unconvinced by his call for reconciliation, especially in light of ongoing tensions over the issue of medical parole for former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Many were hoping that Chen would be able to go home on New Year’s Eve after a medical team recommended that he be granted medical parole, but the Ministry of Justice said on Wednesday that it would not be able to decide until Monday because vital documents were not delivered on time.
Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) culture and information director Super Meng (孟義超) dismissed the president’s speech as empty words.
“Reconciliation between the two political camps is a nonstarter when you cannot even have peace with your party colleague [Legislative Speaker] Wang Jin-pyng (王金平),” Meng said.
“If [Ma] had announced a retraction of the lawsuit against Wang or the immediate release of Chen, [Ma’s] so-called reconciliation efforts would not have been merely lip service,” he said.
Media personality Clara Chou (周玉蔻) said the speech was “empty,” since “no one would believe that Ma has the will or power to execute his calls [of reconciliation]” after the delay of Chen’s release, which “was obviously a political decision.”
By separating the issues of young people’s discontent and the cross-strait framework as if there was no connection between the two, the president has shown that “he does not understand the problem,” DPP spokesperson Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) said.
“[New Taipei City Mayor and] KMT chairman candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) has at least mentioned that cross-strait dealings have been monopolized by wealthy and powerful people, and promised to make changes to that,” Cheng added.
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that while the president asked people to direct their dissatisfaction toward him, “he is the source of public dissatisfaction.”
KMT Legislator Lin Kuo-cheng (林國正) said that finding the source of public dissatisfaction is necessary to solve the problem of public discontent.
The problem will not simply disappear because the president calls for it, Lin said.
TAIWAN PROTECTION MEASURE: US Army General Charles Flynn would not say where in the Asia-Pacific the missiles would be sent, but only that they would arrive in 2024 The US is to send medium-range missiles including the Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) and Tomahawk to the Asia-Pacific next year to deter a Chinese attack on Taiwan, US military news Web site Defense One reported. The report cited comments US Army General Charles Flynn made during the annual Halifax International Security Forum on Nov. 19. “We have tested them and we have a battery or two of them today,” Flynn was quoted as saying. “In 24. We intend to deploy that system in your region. I’m not going to say where and when. But I will just say that we will
UNUSUAL UPTICK: There are more flu-like illnesses in northern China than in the past 3 years, but data from Beijing showed that known pathogens are responsible Responding to an uptick in respiratory illnesses in China, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said it has instructed international airport and port quarantine centers to raise their alert levels, and plans to issue an alert to healthcare practitioners. The number of flu-like illnesses reported in northern China has been increasing for five consecutive weeks, and is higher than the same period in the past three years, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said. “According to the WHO’s latest statement, issued yesterday, information provided by Chinese government showed that the illnesses were mainly reported among children, and the illnesses were attributed
LOYALTY: The 10 active and retired soldiers betrayed the nation and its people by leaking and passing on military secrets to China, the High Prosecutors’ Office said Ten former and current military officers were yesterday indicted on charges of spying for China, including two who allegedly filmed themselves pledging loyalty to Beijing. The High Prosecutors’ Office requested life imprisonment for the suspects in light of the severity of the crime. The 10 active-duty and retired officers included members of the 601st Brigade of the Aviation Special Forces comprising attack helicopter squadrons and elite combat units in charge of defending northern Taiwan, including Taipei. The other suspects came from Huadong Defense Command, in charge of defending the eastern coast; Kinmen Defense Command, in charge of defending Kinmen and Matsu; and one
‘OPEN TO DIALOGUE’: Her alliance with Vice President William Lai is based on their commitment to preserve the nation’s freedom and democracy, Hsiao Bi-khim said Taiwan should “trust, but verify” reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) denied that Beijing plans to invade Taiwan in 2027, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice presidential candidate Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) told reporters yesterday. “We anticipate and we hope that Chairman Xi Jinping was sincere when he said there was no timetable” for bringing Taiwan under control by force, said Hsiao, who earlier this week resigned as the representative to the US to join the ticket of DPP nominee, Vice President William Lai (賴清德). Borrowing a phrase from former US president Ronald Reagan — which US President Joe Biden also used after