Presidential aide calls for early decision on debate with opposition


TAIPEi–A senior aide to Presidential Ma Ying-jeou said Sunday that the Presidential Office will cooperate fully once the organizer of a proposed debate between the president and an opposition leader decides on a date.

The priority now is for Taiwan Public Television Service (PTS) to coordinate with representatives from both sides to finalize the details as soon as possible, said Lo Chih-chiang, deputy secretary-general of the office.

Both Ma and Su Tseng-chang, chairman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), have responded positively to the idea of a televised debate over an accord signed with China in June to open up service industries on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The DPP has reportedly rejected a proposal to involve five other media outlets in organizing the debate, however, and has expressed a preference for a format that will not allow reporters to raise questions on live television.

Lo said that the Presidential Office has accepted those conditions despite some reluctance in order to make the debate a reality, though he said he does not see the reason behind the two demands.

Su has declined to comment on those demands, but did tell reporters that he is happy at Ma’s willingness to participate.

He hopes to help the people get a clearer picture about the nature of the agreement through debate, he said.

The service pact up to be debated has met with criticism and resistance since it was signed with China in June. The accord can take effect only after it has been reviewed by the Legislature, where DPP members have promised to scrutinize it closely.

PTS is no stranger to televised debates. The public channel co-organized a similar event in 2010, along with the Central News Agency and four major newspapers, when Ma faced off with the DPP’s then-chairwoman, Tsai Ing-wen, over the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, which was signed with China some two months later.