Thu, May 26, 2011 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTERS ]

Toxic headache

I woke up at 6am on Friday to find an increasingly strong chemical smell filling my apartment. Heading outside to investigate, I found a pair of people painting the metal barrier enclosing a construction site across the lane from my home. The entire lane stank of the paint, as did probably all the homes on the street.

The steel wall was already functional as a barrier and had already been painted green prior to installation in order to protect it from the elements. Why then, was this team repainting it? Apparently, a member of the government was due to inspect the site later in the morning and painting the exterior white and the interior a muddy shade of brown would somehow make the site look more acceptable to him.

I would have liked to meet him and tell him that a barrier is not meant to look pretty and in needlessly painting it the owners showed a complete lack of decency and common sense by filling the air with noxious fumes. I would also have liked to ask him why it is that Taiwan’s people, industry and government still don’t seem to grasp the idea of occupational health and safety. Neither of the painters was wearing appropriate respiratory equipment for working with volatile organic compounds and in fact were dressed in a way that suggested the sun was more of a threat than the chemicals they were inhaling.

I cannot blame the workers. They are not well paid and the equipment they need to protect them is not necessarily cheap. However, I can blame the unscrupulous construction companies that employ them.

If the workers were to pass the costs for protective gear on to their employers, I’m sure they would soon find themselves jobless in favor of people who are cheaper and care less about their health.

It’s despicable of construction companies to place cost over their employees’ health and it’s ignorant and irresponsible of them to subject their temporary neighbors to harmful solvents. I wasn’t asked if I’d like to be exposed to chemicals this morning and I didn’t request the headache that I now have.

Steven Painter

Taipei

Constitution talk

There might be questions regarding events leading up to Taiwan’s recent World Health Assembly (WHA) participation, but there is little doubt that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has succumbed to Beijing’s demand and acquiesced to let Taiwan’s status slip to being a province of China — at least within the WHO, one of the UN’s most prominent arms.

Unfortunately for Taiwanese, save for the chorus of outcry against selling out to China, no one seemed to be able to articulate a workable constitutional case to impeach — much less oust — Ma, despite his apparent assault on Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Taiwanese therefore are left to face the prospect of at least another year of Ma advancing his agenda — or mischief.

Therefore, with the nation’s democracy grounded on quicksand, it is not much of a hyperbole to say that there is a clear — if not imminent — danger to Taiwan’s existence.

All of this has pointed to the nation’s desperate need for a new constitution, at least for defensive purposes.

The matter has become even more urgent considering recent US academics’ calls for scrapping the Taiwan Relations Act, the folly of which has been exposed by many.

Meanwhile, the fact that the Department of Health minister presented his credentials in the WHA as the health minister of “Chinese Taipei” and cited that name repeatedly in his speech to the assembly as well as in a letter to the WHO Secretariat showed Ma’s official acknowledgment of his unilateral change of the nation’s name from the “Republic of China” to “Chinese Taipei.”

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