MARSHALL ISLANDS MINISTER CLAIMS BRIBE OFFERED, BUT TAIWAN’S AMBASSADOR

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CLAIMS IT’S JUST ANOTHER RUMOR

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Jan. 21, 2000 – Marshall Islands Journal)---A Cabinet Minister claims that he was offered $100,000 by the Taiwan Ambassador if he would vote to renew the term of former President Imata Kabua.

A recently appointed Cabinet Minister said that he was approached about 10 days before the January 3 Presidential election in the Nitijela -- while he was still a Senator-elect -- with the money offer in exchange for providing his vote to continue the previous Taiwan-friendly administration.

The Minister, who provided details of the alleged bribe in response to questions from the Journal and requested not to be identified, said that Taiwan Ambassador Leo Fu-tien Liu came to his home shortly before Christmas and handed him an envelope containing $10,000 in cash.

He said he wasn’t keen on seeing the matter aired in public -- saying "I don’t want to be a hero" -- but provided details of the allegation to the Journal.

"He (Liu) seemed paranoid that someone would be listening, so he didn’t say anything but wrote down a message on the back of a business card," the Minister said. The message, he said, offered him an additional $90,000 after January 3 for a vote in Kabua’s favor. The Ambassador then tore up the note and flushed it down the toilet at the Minister’s home, he said.

He said that at the time Liu came to his home, he was preparing to leave for an outer atoll. A short time later, he took the envelope back to the Taiwan Embassy because he said he didn’t want anything to do with it.

He said that after returning the money, he called a local attorney for advice. "He told me I should have showed the money to him before returning it, because then there would be a witness to it," the Minister said.

He said the lawyer also encouraged him to tell other United Democratic Party members about the bribe attempt.

He said that he told the group during its final meeting on Sunday, January 2, the day prior to Kessai Note’s election as President. He was curious if anyone else had been approached, but no one at the meeting indicated that they had been, he said.

Several other Cabinet Ministers declined comment on the allegation.

Minister Gerald Zackios said only that, "we will take everything in the relationship (with Taiwan) into consideration," during the task force review of relations with Taiwan.

 

NOT POSSIBLE SINCE IT’S AGAINST POLICY

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (January 21, 2000 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Republic of China Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Leo Fu-lien Liu, was available Tuesday morning this week, and he joined one of the Journal staff on the patio of the Majuro Outrigger. The lagoon was a placid blue lake of scintillating clarity and silence, heavily accented with the many large foreign fishing vessels aimed dagger-like toward the south from whence a light-caressing breeze fanned the wide-awake atoll. It wasn’t a comfortable table conversation the two were undertaking for the Journal representative was probing as gently as he could with a toothpick at what was alleged to be a rather significant cavity in the moral fiber of the ROC’s presence here in the Marshall Islands.

Was the Ambassador aware that an allegation had been made by a current Minister of the RMI government that a bribe was offered to affect the minister’s vote for the next President of the Republic?

"No, I can say definitely this is not so because such thing is against policy. Policy would not permit such a thing," he said.

The Ambassador was quite adamant, even in the fact of the further probe, "how can you be absolutely sure?"

"I am sure because it is against policy and it doesn’t make sense," he said. "We function on a government-to-government basis exclusively."

"But what if a Chinese, say a local businessman, were to have approached such a minister, couldn’t this happen? How could the ambassador be so certain?"

The chat continued with the Ambassador clearly emphasizing what he said was the policy of diplomatic engagement by his country, which was above reproach.

"We do not care so much what party is in power so long as we have a good relationship with the government," he said.

He emphasized that his main concern was to work with whatever government happened to be in power to ensure that maximum coordination could be achieved in the maintenance and improvement of relations. This, he said, involved a very considerable amount of work, work on the "planning and implementation of project," as well as invitations to Taiwan to broaden understanding.

The Ambassador explained that he was aware of rumors that had been floating around Majuro about large sums of money up to $7 million, provided by the ROC to individuals here.

"But where is the evidence?" he asked. "These are political times and such rumors come about in political times."

He said that any allegation by a current member of government that Ambassador Liu had made an approach with $10,000 was not true.

"Such a matter should be taken to court. Such things can be resolved there. What is important to remember is that there must be evidence, not just rumor," he said.

Ambassador Liu said he was very "disappointed" that political rumors were making such difficulties. He said his government was anxious to develop a good relationship here in the Marshall Islands, and added that for the past couple of years he has worked very hard toward that goal.

"You must understand," he said, "we operate only on a government-to-government basis. We do not do such things as these rumors or accusations say. It just doesn’t make sense."

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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