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June 24, 2017

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'Pan-blue' lawmakers reluctant to launch recall

The two major opposition parties yesterday would not commit themselves to a recall campaign against President Chen Shui-bian as proposed in what the Presidential Office dismissed as an "absurd" report on the March 19 shooting.

The "319 truth-finding committee," set up under a controversial law that the government has refused to recognize, on Monday released a 150-page report claiming the shooting was an "election ploy."

The committee, which had been denied access to key evidence because of disputes over its legitimacy, called on the Legislature to launch a campaign to recall Chen.

But the opposition Kuomintang and the People First Party, whose combined seats form a majority in the Legislature, said a recall campaign was a serious action that needed careful consideration of the political situation and public opinion.

Despite lauding the committee's investigation efforts, the two parties' lawmakers pointed out that Chen, inaugurated on May 20, is protected by the Constitution from being recalled within the first year of his current term.

Presidential Secretary General Su Tzeng-chang said the Presidential Office regretted the "absurd conclusion and irrational suggestion" in the "scientifically unfounded report."

The Presidential Office on Monday already dismissed the report as an a politically motivated absurdity.

"The '319 truth-finding committee' is an unconstitutional body according to a Dec. 15 interpretation by the Council of Grand Justices," Chen Wen-chung, director of the Presidential Office's Public Affairs Department, stressed.

Even before the grand justices handed down the verdict, the spokesman said, all administrative agencies had rejected the investigators' requests for access to official documents or evidence over fears that the panel was unconstitutional.

"This indicates that the commission arrived at its assumption without the support of any concrete documents or evidence. Its report is outrageous and completely unacceptable," the spokesman said.

Noting that the commission was formed by only nine or 10 representatives named by the opposition "pan-blue alliance" of the KMT and PFP, he said its report was "politically motivated and no more than an unfounded assumption by a few people."

Chen's abdomen was grazed by a bullet while campaigning in Tainan in an open-top Jeep on the eve of the election. Vice President Annette Lu was hit in her knee. Their injuries were slight.

Government investigators, with the help of world renowned forensic scientist Henry Lee, have concluded that Chen and Lu were hit separately by two home-made bullets fired from one or two converted guns.

The investigators have collected two bullets and two shells from the scene where the attack is believed to have taken place.

But the "319 truth-finding committee" alleged that the power of the two bullets police retrieved from the scene could not have caused the injuries to Chen and Lu.

"The motive behind the March 19 shooting is to manipulate the election," said Wang Ching-feng, a spokeswoman for the committee formed by the opposition-dominated parliament last September.

"We determined the president's wound was not caused by the lead bullet discovered. (The shooting) did not take place in that place at that time," Wang told reporters.

The two opposition parties staged massive marathon protests in front of the Presidential Office in the several weeks following the March poll in attempts to oust a president they refused to recognize.

They were eager to set up the investigation committee to find the truth behind the shooting.

But now the opposition parties seem far from being ready to act on the cue from the committee, whose convener, Shih Chih-yang, said the panel had done its best possible to reach a conclusion "closest to the truth."

Heavyweights from the government and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party yesterday leapt to the defense of the president.

Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh said the conjecture in the report was more like Internet games, while DPP whip Lee Chun-yi described the report as a work of "science fiction."

Lee vowed to mobilize "a million" supporters to besiege he Legislature if opposition parties launched the recall drive.

Another DPP Tsai Huang-liang and his Taiwan Solidarity Union counterpart Chen Chien-min said the Legislature should refuse to accept the report.

Chen won a second four-year term by a mere 0.2 percent margin, prompting the defeated opposition to immediately raise suspicions the shooting may have been faked.

Police have not identified the assailant after nine months of investigation. Their biggest breakthrough came in December when they arrested the man who they said made the bullets used in the attack.

The KMT had filed two lawsuits to contest Chen's election victory. Both were rejected by the High Court.

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