INVESTIGATORS' FINDINGS IN 319 SHOOTING DRAW PARTISAN RESPONSE
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, March 7 (CNA) Political parties reacted along party lines Monday to a special team of investigators' claims that they had identified the the person who might have shot President Chen Shui-bian March 19, 2004.
The March 19 assassination attempt on the president has been at the center of a bitter dispute between the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) over the legitimacy of Chen's successful re-election.
The KMT and PFP, which fielded a joint ticket in the presidential race, claim that the assassination was a campaign trick choreographed by Chen's camp to win over voters.
In addition to filing two lawsuits in attempt to deny Chen the presidency, they formed the 319 Truth Investigation Commission to carry out an investigation into the shooting.
The KMT has called for its supporters to take to the streets on March 19, the anniversary of the shooting, to turn up the heat on the government to get to the bottom of the shooting.
However, the government's investigation team consisting of prosecutors and police detectives claimed earlier in the day that they had identified a suspect, who apparently committed suicide March 28 last year.
Lawmaker Lai Chin-teh, the secretary-general of the DPP caucus at the Legislative Yuan, welcomed Monday's finding, claiming that it clears the president of suspicion that he staged the assassination to win sympathy in the presidential race.
He expressed thanks to the investigators, saying their findings will promote the ongoing process of reconciliation between the DPP and the opposition parties.
Lai urged the KMT to call off its March 19 demonstration, saying it will only prompt further upheaval rather than finding the truth.
The DPP's political ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, shared his view. TSU Secretary-General Chen Chien-ming acknowledged the investigators' hard work and called on the various political parties to respect and affirm their findings and refrain from speculation that will only impede the probe.
Meanwhile, the KMT and PFP unanimously decried the investigators' findings as unconvincing.
KMT Chairman Lien Chan shrugged off journalists' requests for comment on the investigators' findings, but his aides said the KMT chief finds them "ridiculous."
KMT Spokesman Chang Jung-kung said his party is worried that the truth of the case might be buried forever now that the police have pointing the finger at a dead person as the chief suspect. "If that is the government's final reply to the mysterious shooting, it only shows that the government has no intention of getting to the bottom of the case and the Taiwan people, as well as the international community, will keep questioning the fairness of the 2004 presidential election," Chang claimed.
Citing six questions raised by the 319 Truth Investigation Commission about the shooting, Chang said the government's claims that the suspect has been found fails to address these questions.
PFP Spokesman Hsieh Kung-ping noted that the investigators timed the revelation of their "major breakthrough" just two weeks before the anniversary of the shooting and speculated that the timing is apparently for "political purposes." "Instead of stopping speculation, pointing to a deceased as the suspect will only fuel the rumors," Hsieh said.
PFP Legislator Lee Yung-ping, who is secretary of the PFP caucus at the Legislative Yuan, said the findings will probably satisfy the authorities but not the general public.
Lee said the investigators' inability to substantiate their claims with evidence also proves the necessity of having the 319 Truth Investigation Commission, which ceased its work Jan. 19, carry on its probe.
Commission spokeswoman Wang Chin-feng said the investigators' findings have raised more questions than they have answered.
She said the investigators never mentioned the findings to her commission during their interviews with the commission workers and therefore there is a shadow of doubt cast over their findings.
However, she went on, her commission has been unable to get to the bottom of the case because of a boycott by the DPP administration.
Noting that the Council of Grand Justices has downgraded the commission to an agency under the Legislative Yuan, which Wang described as the nation's "most cruel political arena, " she said her commission cannot carry out its job "independently" with such a status and is not expected to conduct an investigation "free from political interference."
(By Maubo Chang)
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