Taipei, March 24 (CNA) Calling the row between ruling and opposition parties over the service trade pact with China a "procedural dispute," Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng Monday pledged to break the deadlock that has led protesters to occupy the Legislature since last week.
He will have his work cut out for him, though, as his attempt Monday to hold cross-party talks ended in failure, with the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)'s caucus whip Ker Chien-ming calling the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) insincere and unwilling to compromise.
Apparently unfazed, Wang said later in the day that he will spare no efforts to find an acceptable resolution over the pact, which both the DPP and student-led protesters say was negotiated and forced through the Legislature without proper scrutiny.
He also called on protesters inside and around the Legislative Yuan to practice self-restraint and remain calm, though he stopped short of urging them to pack up and go home -- a call that others in the ruling party have repeatedly made.
Instead, Wang only said that democracy and rule of law are core values in Taiwan. Government power should be used only to protect those values, implying that he is not currently considering removing the protesters from his branch of government.
At the heart of the controversy is the service trade agreement with China, signed in June last year but not yet endorsed by Taiwan's lawmakers, which has left some worried about the impact on small local businesses and the job market.
A review of the pact was repeatedly delayed at the Legislature until finally being put on the agenda for a joint meeting of eight committees March 12, when lawmakers were supposed to consider the pact item by item.
Instead of engaging in any substantive discussion, however, KMT and DPP lawmakers, who take turns chairing the committees, have clashed and argued over who controlled the podium, making it impossible for the meeting to start.
The KMT, which is pushing for a ratification of the pact as soon as possible, managed to sidestep the review on March 17 by announcing the meeting was in session and immediately announcing it had adjourned. The party argues that means it is ready for a vote on the legislative floor, where the KMT has the upper hand in numbers.
The DPP strongly opposed the move, which has been cited as the catalyst for the escalation of protests the following day.
(By Chen Wei-ting and Elizabeth Hsu) ENDITEM/WH
Related stories:●March 24: KMT aiming for item-by-item review of pact at floor session●March 24: KMT, DPP lawmakers fail to reach agreement of China trade pact●March 24: DPP lawmakers demand renegotiation of pact with China (update 2)●March 24: Legislative speaker to meet with lawmakers over trade pact row●March 23: Trade pact with China still under committee screening: speaker●March 22: DPP schedules review of China trade pact; KMT vows boycott
(Click here for the latest on the ongoing protest and developments since the Legislature occupation starting March 18.)