More than 80 percent of respondents to an online CNN poll said that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should resign over the administration’s delays in assisting victims of Typhoon Morakot.
Ma, who ruled out resignation during an interview with CNN on Sunday, said that his government did its best to deal with the aftermath of Morakot. Although he said during the interview that he would take full responsibility for the blunders and mistakes made during rescue efforts, he defined “taking all responsibility” as finding out what was wrong with the rescue system, correcting the problems and disciplining officials in charge.
In CNN’s Quickvote yesterday, 82 percent of voters said yes to the question: “Should Taiwan’s leader stand down over delays in aiding typhoon victims?”
Only 18 percent voted no.
Desperate for damage control after extensive media coverage of his administration’s alleged poor performance, Ma will hold two press conferences today with the local press corps and foreign correspondents.
His administration has come under fire since the typhoon began lashing Taiwan on Aug. 7, dropping more than a year’s rainfall in three days and triggering the most serious flooding and mudslides the nation has seen in 50 years.
Ma called a national security meeting on Friday and activated the national security mechanism, but declined to take charge of the rescue operation, saying the onus lay with the executive branch.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said yesterday that Ma would speak briefly on the government’s relief efforts before opening the floor to questions at today’s press conferences.
When asked whether Ma would apologize again today, Wang said it was possible.
Bowing to public anger, Ma apologized on Saturday for the slow pace of rescue efforts, but he blamed the weather and road conditions for hampering rescue efforts. He also said on Sunday that he would shoulder all responsibility for the shortcomings in his government’s response to the disaster, but pledged to punish officials responsible.
Amid calls for a Cabinet reshuffle, Wang yesterday said that “somebody will be held responsible,” but it would have to wait until the investigation concludes.
Wang said because the government’s first priority was disaster relief, there was no timetable for the investigation and disciplinary measures.
Regarding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ rejection of foreign aid, Wang said the Presidential Office, National Security Council and Executive Yuan did not know about the ministry’s memo before it was sent out to embassies and representative offices as a “routine affair.”
“It is a question of judgment,” Wang said.
Wang also said on Saturday that the nation would not file a request to join the UN this year as the deadline for filing such a request was Aug. 15. Wang, however, said that the administration’s determination to “return” to the UN remained unchanged, but that it would adopt a more “flexible” approach.
“The Republic of China is an independent sovereignty. We are a peace-loving nation and a founding member of the UN,” he said. “We lost the UN seat in 1971, but we have been making efforts to return to the body and that resolve has never changed.”