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Talk of the Day -- Mixed views on high-profile influence peddling

2013/09/07 22:07:41

A high-profile influence peddling case that has implicated several domestic political heavyweights, including Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, dominated local news headlines Saturday.

A special investigation unit alleged Friday that Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu and Chen Shou-huang, head of the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office, had intervened in a case in which opposition Democratic Progressive Party legislative whip Ker Chien-ming was the defendant.

Tseng and Chen stopped a prosecutor from appealing Ker's not-guilty verdict in a breach of trust case in June after being asked to intervene by Wang, according to the Special Investigation Division (SID) under the Supreme Prosecutors Office.

Besides releasing a transcript of telephone conversations between Wang and Ker to back its accusations, the SID has referred Tseng's case to the Control Yuan to see if he should be impeached.

Chen's case has been sent to the Justice Ministry's prosecutor evaluation committee for an administrative evaluation of his actions.

Both Tseng and Chen have denied the SID allegations, but Tseng still announced his resignation late Friday, saying he was stepping down to avoid putting his superiors and his ministry in a difficult position.

Major local newspapers described the SID's move as "a political bombshell" that could have a major impact on Taiwan's political landscape.

Some local netizens praised the SID for its guts to challenge the justice minister, the supreme chief of the country's prosecution system.

Many lawmakers lashed out, however, at the SID's wiretapping of the legislative speaker and a leading opposition legislator, saying such a practice was outrageous.

The following are excerpts from local media coverage of the controversial case:

Apple Daily:

An online poll conducted by this paper on Friday found that respondents were divided in their opinions on the SID's move to refer Tseng's case to the Control Yuan for an impeachment probe.

Some 37.5 percent of respondents described the move as a political gambit or power struggle while 33.82 percent said the SID was just and impartial in dealing with the case. The other respondents said they were not aware of the event or had no opinion about the case.

A total of 272 valid samples were collected in the survey.

Some netizens wrote on a PTT website that the case could be a showdown between Wang and President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang.

Wang, a legislator-at-large representing the KMT, has enormous clout in the Legislature because of his good rapport with many lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition camps.

But some academics said people should refrain from using conspiracy theories to interpret the case.

The case should not be dismissed as a power struggle simply because it implicates the ruling and opposition leaders in the Legislature as well as the justice minister and the nation's top prosecutor known for their longstanding rift over personnel appointments, the analysts said.

The SID deserves applause for its courage in taking action against rampant influence peddling in the local political arena, they said. (Sept. 7, 2013).

China Times:

Quite a few people in judicial circles questioned the appropriateness of the SID's move to refer Tseng's case to the Control Yuan for an administrative probe, because the unit is uniquely authorized to handle criminal investigations.

Moreover, they said, the justice minister is the head of the prosecutorial system, and the SID seemed to go beyond its authority in referring Tseng to the Control Yuan for an impeachment investigation.

Meanwhile, lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition camps slammed the SID's wiretapping of the legislative speaker and a leading opposition lawmaker.

KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang said wiretapping the legislative speaker and legislators is illegal.

"Such a move could spark a political storm in foreign countries," Lu said.

DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui said the SID should explain whether its wiretapping on Wang and Ker was for criminal prevention or political purposes. (Sept. 7, 2013)

(By Sofia Wu)