Tue, Aug 04, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Yeh Ching-chuan resigns, readies for KMT primary

‘RUNAWAY MINISTER’ Some members of both the DPP and KMT camps accused the minister of health of making his political career a priority over public health

By Flora Wang and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Minister of Health Yeh Ching-chuan announces his resignation in preparation for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Hualien County commissioner primary at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Minister of Health Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) resigned yesterday in preparation for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Hualien County commissioner primary.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) approved Yeh’s resignation after meeting Yeh at the Executive Yuan yesterday morning, Cabinet Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) told reporters.

The resignation will take effect on Thursday afternoon.

The premier also requested that Yeh report to the Executive Yuan during its weekly meeting on Thursday regarding the Department of Health’s measures to prevent a swine flu epidemic.

Su said the premier had begun to speak to possible candidates to take over from Yeh and would publicize the nomination once it was finalized.

Yeh, 59, was appointed health minister in September after his predecessor, Lin Fang-yu (林芳郁) resigned amid the made-in-China melamine milk powder scandal.

At a press conference later yesterday, Yeh said the premier “reluctantly” approved his resignation, but said he understood Yeh’s reasons for leaving the job and joining the primary.

Yeh said that soon after assuming the position last year, he told the premier he did not intend to remain health minister for a long period of time.

“I’ve always treated Hualien as my home and wanted to serve [the people] in Hualien. I have special feelings for Hualien and I have my own views on how to develop the county. I’m confident that I can do better than the other aspirants [in the primary],” said Yeh, who previously taught at Tzu Chi University in Hualien.

Aside from Yeh, KMT Legislator Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁), Hualien County Council Speaker Yang Wen-chi (楊文值), Hualien City Mayor Tsai Chi-ta (蔡啟塔) and former director of Hualien County’s Agricultural Development Office Tu Li-hua (杜麗華), have registered with the party to participate in the primary.

The KMT is scheduled to finalize the nomination by Sept 12.

Yeh said his resignation did not mean he did not care about the battle against the (A)H1N1 virus.

“I will offer consultation [to the government] as a [public health] expert and a concerned citizen when necessary,” Yeh said.

“In disease prevention, what matters more is the [public health] system and teamwork. [The department’s] team is working very smoothly,” Yeh said.

“Compared with the situation in the US, at least we have managed to delay the emergence of [cluster] outbreaks by three months,” he said.

Legislators across party lines voiced dissatisfaction with Yeh’s resignation.

KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said Yeh should not have put the primary before flu prevention.

“He made the worst decision at the worst time,” KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) said. “It’s as if he was telling voters that the election is more important than disease prevention.”

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) criticized Yeh for “abandoning the Taiwanese people” at the height of the flu epidemic to pursue political objectives and called him a “runaway minister.”

“A health minister should always have the public’s welfare as his first priority. Rather than stand shoulder to shoulder with the public to fight the virus, Yeh has chosen to turn his back just when the [number of infections] has reached an alarming level,” DPP Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said.

‘MOCKERY’

Cheng also described the KMT’s primary as a “mockery to democracy” because the entire process, including the dates, was “tailor made” to suit Yeh’s needs and schedule.

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