Wed, Jul 26, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Yu quits over creek tragedy

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY Premier Tang Fei's resignation was not accepted by the president, but Vice Premier Yu Shyi-kun's offer to step down was

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice Premier Yu Shyi-kun announces his resignation yesterday to take responsibility for the tragic deaths of four workers at Pachang Creek in Chiayi County on Saturday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Pachang Creek (八掌溪) incident, which claimed the lives of four workers, turned into a political torrent yesterday, when Vice Premier Yu Shyi-kun resigned from the Cabinet.

Premier Tang Fei (唐飛) had offered his resignation but is to stay in his post.

National Fire Administration Director Chen Hung-yi (陳弘毅) and National Police Administration Director-General Ting Yuan-chin (丁原進) also stepped down.

"Someone has to take responsibility for the tragedy, but it doesn't have to be the most highly-ranked official, Premier Tang. The opposition party's criticism that the colonel has been sacrificed to save the general (棄車保帥) is not fair to the premier," Yu said yesterday afternoon.

Yu said that he would take the initiative and resign, rather than Tang, because the premier's departure would lead to a Cabinet reshuffle and trigger political instability.

Yu said he would resign because he also chaired the Council of Disaster Prevention (災害防救委員會), which was established on July 19, and which could be held responsible for the rescue delay.

Yu said that the idea of resigning came to him on Monday morning, when he heard Tang vow to take political responsibility himself.

After consulting with Presidential Office spokesmen Chen Che-nan (陳哲男), Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成) and DPP Secretary General Wu Nai-jen (吳乃仁), Yu decided to resign.

Tang was informed of Yu's resignation around 10:30pm Monday night and he approved it at 7:30am yesterday morning.

Yu said the decision to resign was his own, but a source who declined to be identified, told the Taipei Times that "the decision came directly from President Chen."

President Chen had called two meetings, at 4pm and 8pm on Monday, to deal with the political impact of Tang's resignation.

Two conclusions were made during the first meeting: first, that Tang would remain in post; second, someone else would have to step down.

Tang was invited to the second meeting, but said he could not attend because of his schedule. This made it clear to President Chen that Tang was determined to resign.

Tang's resignation would have cost Chen dearly, politically speaking. "It is a decision without political sense," was one comment made at the first meeting.

Chen agreed to Yu's resignation at the second meeting.

"It is a desperate decision. Society is becoming bloodthirsty," said Wu, secretary-general of the DPP, adding that it was not fair for Yu to take political responsibility.

Wu said the resignation would help meet social expectations that high-ranking government officials should be responsible for the tragedy.

When asked about the social impact of Yu's resignation, Wu said that time would tell. He also said he hoped that the collective trauma felt by society because of the tragedy would pass soon.

"Another issue we, the DPP as the ruling party, have to think about is why Tang was so determined to quit," DPP Lawmaker Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) said, adding that he suspected Tang would offer his resignation again if a similar crisis happened.

Premier Tang approved the resignations of National Police Administration Director Ting and National Fire Administration Director-General Chen yesterday afternoon, saying that both should take responsibility for the tragic deaths.

A resignation request from Ministry of the Interior political vice minister, Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) was rejected. Tang said that Lee's area of responsibility was unrelated to the tragedy.

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