Sat, Aug 22, 2009 - Page 1 News List

MORAKOT: THE AFTERMATH: Ma heckled on visit to Baolai Village

TIMING TROUBLE The Presidential Office said that Ma Ying-jeou had waited 12 days before visiting the disaster area to avoid interfering with rescue efforts

By Mo Yan-chih and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Volunteer temporary relief workers in Syuejia Township, Tainan County, protest yesterday, saying they felt cheated after being offered 22-day work contracts, only to have the contracts nullified when the military joined rescue efforts. The placards read: “We Want To Eat” and “Super Scam. Lies! Lies! Lies!”

PHOTO: YANG CHIN-CHENG, TAIPEI TIMES

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was met with complaints and heckling from typhoon victims yesterday as he visited Baolai Village (寶來), one of the hardest-hit areas in Kaohsiung County, for the first time since Typhoon Morakot wreaked havoc in southern Taiwan two weeks ago.

With the village unreachable by ground transport, Ma arrived in Liouguei Township (六龜) by helicopter. As soon as villagers spotted Ma, they began approaching him with complaints, saying “no one cares about us.”

“It has been days and our family members’ remains have still not been found,” one villager said. “There are not enough excavators, so we have to dig by hand. Please help us, Mr President!”

“Our homes were buried by the mudslide, and an excavator came and dug for a day and left,” another villager said. “Everything is gone. We might as well all be dead.”

In response to criticism from villagers that Ma’s visit came too late, Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said the president had delayed visiting the disaster area to avoid interfering with the rescue effort.

Ma, whose popularity has plummeted amid widespread criticism of the government’s response to the disaster, began visiting affected areas in the last few days as rescue work winds down and the nation prepares for post-­disaster reconstruction, Wang said.

Ma did not visit the hardest-hit areas until 12 days after the typhoon struck. He visited Siaolin Village (小林) on Wednesday and the Sinkai Community (新開部落) on Thursday.

Ma yesterday also visited Namasiya Township (那瑪夏), where about 600 residents remain. Others have been evacuated to Cishan Township (旗山).

Roads to the village were still being repaired, and they had neither electricity nor water supplies, residents told Ma.

The president shook hands with residents and promised to speed up rescue and relief efforts.

Ma then visited Taoyuan Township (桃源) for about an hour before heading to the military command center at Cishan Township. Ma and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) later presided over a disaster reconstruction meeting at the center and spent the night in the township.

Ma is scheduled to visit Siaolin Village again today and attend the erqi (二七), a traditional rite held on the 14th day after a person’s death.

Earlier yesterday in Taipei, while meeting with US Representative Howard Berman at the Presidential Office, Ma thanked the US for assisting rescue efforts by providing helicopters earlier this week to help lift engineering vehicles to hard-hit villages.

Meanwhile, Wang yesterday dismissed speculation that Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (台灣高鐵) chief executive officer Ou Chin-der (歐晉德), a former Ma aide, would take over as Executive Yuan secretary-general after Hsueh Hsiang-chuan (薛香川) tendered his resignation.

Hsueh had been criticized for dining with his family at a five-star hotel while Typhoon Morakot ravaged the south.

When asked by reporters if Ma would keep Liu as premier, Wang said Ma did not plan to replace Liu during the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle.

Lawmakers across party lines yesterday decided to hold a provisional session next week to ­deliberate on a special statute for post-Morakot reconstruction that would facilitate recovery efforts.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said it would present a draft proposal at the three-day session from Tuesday to Thursday to be discussed together with the Executive Yuan’s proposal, which capped the reconstruction budget at NT$100 billion (US$ 3.03 billion).

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