Chen cancels DPP meeting over rumor mill

Lawmakers want to avoid 'antagonism' with pan-green academics

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) canceled a scheduled expanded meeting of Democratic Progressive Party officials and lawmakers in order to prevent the assembly from being interpreted as an effort to endorse Chen's continued governance.The president had scheduled a meeting last night at the Grand Hotel with DPP leaders in the Executive Yuan and the Office of the President and over 70 DPP lawmakers to discuss responses to the "Moral Crisis of Democratic Politics and Taiwan Identity" petition initiated by Academia Sinica (中央研究院) political scientist Wu Nai-teh and other pro-green scholars and activists.
The petition called on Chen to "seriously consider stepping down" from office in order to accept full moral and political responsibility for alleged scandals involving close staff and members of the extended first family, including son-in-law Chao Chien-ming, who has been indicted on insider trading charges.
DPP Culture and Information Department Director Tsai Huang-lang (蔡煌瑯) told The Taiwan News that, during a meeting with the president at the Office of the President yesterday afternoon, DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) had suggested that the president cancel the meeting, stating that the scheduled meeting had already been "slandered" and "distorted."
Moreover, Tsai stated that DPP Secretary-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) was "engaging in dialogue" with the initiators of the scholars' petition, which include several persons whom, like Lin, participated in the May 1990 "Wild Lilies" student movement against the then "10,000-year" National Assembly under the former authoritarian Kuomintang regime.
Tsai also stated yesterday that rumors floated in the media that President Chen would resign from office or from the party were "groundless."
"We welcome people from all strata to offer constructive suggestions and criticisms and these views will become a motive force for our party's reform," said Tsai.
But the DPP spokesman emphasized that the resignation of the president "could not solve the current problems and would only cause the political situation to become even more chaotic."
Later yesterday, local Formosa Television reported that Chen had brought up the possibility of resigning at meeting of party's heavyweights, including Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), incumbent Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and his predecessor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), and DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun at the Presidential Office yesterday afternoon.
According to the report, Chen told the conferees that he was not bound to his post and could give it up, but what was more important was how to handle the political challenge in the best interests of the DPP.
However, DPP legislative whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), who also was present at the meeting, told reporters that the president never brought up the idea that he might resign.
Furthermore, Ker added, all those at the meeting agreed that Chen did not need to resign or give up his DPP membership in response to the scholars' call or opposition attacks.
Ker also confirmed that the meeting scheduled for last night had been canceled.
Citing media reports that the meeting was aimed to "pat heads" and "consolidate the leadership center," Ker declared that the DPP "does not have such a culture" and also stated that the meeting had not been canceled because of a large-scale boycott by DPP legislators.
The DPP legislative leader stated that the number of legislators who had decided not to attend the meeting had been exaggerated and that, aside from lawmakers who were traveling abroad, "only a few" had refused to attend.
Instead, Ker said the president's meeting with DPP lawmakers had been "postponed" because "the DPP needs to be more humble and engage in re-examination," especially in the wake of Saturday's petition.
"If we held such a meeting at this time, many people would definitely interpret it as us acting in opposition to the pro-green scholars and that would not be in keeping with being humble and would be misinterpreted," Ker acknowledged.
In addition, the DPP caucus leader said that a meeting with over 70 lawmakers at one time "would provide no way to resolve internal issues."
Ker said that the president would alter his "method of dialogue" in order to hold unscheduled meetings with lawmakers in groups of "three to five" so that "there can be free and frank discussion."