Officials in Chen case granted immunity

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Council of Grand Justices yesterday annulled part of a controversial law to punish officials who refuse to cooperate with a parliamentary commission in the investigation into a shooting that injured President Chen Shui-bian in 2004. Officials who refuse to cooperate with the investigation have the right to take their cases to the court to seek support for their refusal, the council determined. The Legislature’s Truth Finding Commission, set up to investigate the shooting, cannot met out any fines for the officials before the final verdicts have been returned. The council also ruled that the commission must obtain the approval of the government bodies where the officials work before it can enlist their services for the investigation. The part of the law which allowed the commission to fine officials who refused to cooperate was immediately annulled following the council’s ruling, but the rest of the law giving the commission a legal status was allowed to stand.

The ruling concluded a case that the council had opened upon the request by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers, who had argued that the law governing the operation of the commission was unconstitutional. The council’s ruling legitimizes the DPP administration and its officials’ refusal to cooperate with the commission. The DPP lawmakers were satisfied with the council’s decision, calling it “belated justice.” Legislator Ker Chien-ming, a whip of the DPP caucus, said the opposition has been using the commission as tool for “power struggle.” But the opposition camp claimed that the grand justices were intervening into the investigation. “The Council of Grand Justices… are standing in the way, preventing the truth to be revealed and protecting specific individuals,” alleged Legislator Kuo Shu-chun, a whip of the main opposition Kuomintang. “The grand justices should understand that they are making history. Whether or not the Truth Finding Commission law is constitutional is not important,” said Kuo. President Chen and Vice President Annette Lu were shot and injured while parading in Tainan on March 19, 2004, the eve of the presidential election.

The opposition camp accused Chen of staging the shooting to win sympathy from voters. KMT candidate Lien Chan lost to Chen by a razor thin margin. The KMT, which dominated the Legislature together with its allies, managed to pass the controversial last year to set up the Truth Finding Commission. But the DPP administration has refused to cooperate with what it calls an unconstitutional body. The government has refused to offer administrative support of any kind for the commission. The Taiwan Solidarity Union, an ally of the DPP, faulted the grand justices for their inefficiency. TSU legislative convener Lo Chih-ming pointed out that it is only a few months till the president retires.

Legislator Fu Kun-chi from the People First Party, an ally of the KMT, said the council’s decision was the “shame of the ROC Constitution.”