Sat, May 20, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Science council nominee bows out

By Hung Chen-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

On the eve of today's presidential inauguration, Tainan County Commissioner Chen Tang-shan (陳唐山) -- who had been slated to become the new head of the Cabinet-level National Science Council -- reversed his decision, forcing a quick change in the Cabinet line-up.

In what appeared to be a quick recovery from a potentially embarrassing situation for the incoming administration, however, it was announced yesterday that National Cheng Kung University President Weng Cheng-i (翁政義) would become the new NSC chairman-designate.

Weng has a PhD in mechanical engineering from Rochester University in the US, and has taught at National Cheng Kung University since 1980. He also currently works as an NSC researcher.

It was believed the sudden adjustment of Cabinet personnel was caused by Chen's resistance to assume his new office unless his choice of stand-in in the Tainan County commissioner's post was not accepted by President-elect Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Instead, Chen Tang-shan is to remain in his current post.

In the process of forming the Cabinet, President-elect Chen invited three current county chiefs to join his new government, while leaving the problem of succession to those stepping up.

Current regulations state that the final decision is in the hands of the interior ministry.

Chen Tang-shan had insisted that the current deputy commissioner, Lin Wen-ting (林文定) should take over the job, but the DPP itself had considered other choices -- such as lawmaker Wang Hsing-nan (王幸男) or his colleague Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智), the latter of whom has expressed his eagerness to head Tainan County in Chen's absence.

Coordination over the issue, however, was less than ideal. A May 17 meeting of DPP factions reached a consensus that Lin would step in. Su, however, apparently become the favored candidate after meeting with Chen on Thursday.

The change in plans appears to have backfired with Chen Tang-shan and Lin, as the latter two days ago publicly criticized President-elect Chen as having "lied."

Despite accepting the NSC chairmanship, and having gone through a "training camp" for the new Cabinet last weekend, Chen Tang-shan told reporters yesterday that he would "consider" whether or not to stay in his current position.

Chen's hesitation, according to Su, was one of the main reasons President-elect Chen had to find a substitute to head the NSC -- instead of worrying about choosing an acting chief for Tainan County.

Su told the Taipei Times that officials from the president-elect's office called him yesterday afternoon, and said that the incoming NSC chairman would be Weng -- a fact later confirmed by Weng himself.

Weng, however, said he was embarrassed about taking over the job under such disputed conditions.

The storm over personnel affairs is also seen as potentially damaging to Chen.

"It has harmed both the DPP and Chen," said DPP legislator Shen Fu-Hsiung (沈富雄) yesterday. KMT lawmaker Chen Hung-chi (陳鴻基), meanwhile, taunted the DPP for "making a public laughing stock of itself."

But President-elect Chen's quick decision on the issue, according to Su, illustrated his boldness in facing disharmony within the government, and was a sign of his ability to build leadership.

Another dispute, meanwhile, has been brewing over the choice of who will head the Taoyuan County Government in place of incoming Vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).

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