Wed, Mar 09, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Premier refuses to suspend Hu over blaze

PUB FIRE AFTERMATH:Wu said he had no mandate over city governments, but added that authorities had launched an investigation into lax venue inspections

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu bows as he offers incense at the city’s municipal funeral parlor yesterday to mourn the nine people who lost their lives in a fire at the ALA Pub early on Sunday morning.

Photo: CNA

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday turned down calls for the suspension of Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) over a fire at a night club on Sunday that killed nine people and injured 12.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Yu John-dow (余政道) and Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如), who spearheaded demands in the legislature that Hu be suspended, said the premier was “mandated to do that.”

At a separate setting, DPP caucus whips Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) and Wong Chih-chu (翁金珠) called on the Control Yuan to impose a temporary injunction on Hu and city officials to prevent possible cover-ups of dereliction of duty by officials during the investigation into the fire at ALA Pub. They said the Control Yuan should intervene if the Executive Yuan failed to implement a suspension order against city officials.

In accordance with articles 2 and 4 of the Act on Discipline of Civil Servants (公務人員懲戒法), the Executive Yuan has the power to suspend officials possibly involved in negligence or irregularities and refer them to the Public Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission under the Judicial Yuan for investigation, the DPP said.

“As mayor, Jason Hu is the one who should be investigated” for allowing the club to operate despite [allegedly] violating the Urban Planning Act (都市計畫法), the Fire -Service Act (消防法), the Construction Act (建築法) and the Business Registration Act (商業登記法), Gao said.

Gao said that Hu, who on Monday told the city council that a government taskforce could complete an investigation within two weeks, was not in a position to head the investigation.

Hu and his administration team should take full responsibility for the fire, as government officials conducted fire safety inspections at the nightclub as if it were a beverage shop rather than a nightclub, Wong said.

“The city clearly knew that this was a nightclub that served alcohol, but continued to treat it as simply a beverage store in its inspections,” Wong said. “This is why we believe that the entire city government, and especially [Hu], must take responsibility.”

Turning down calls for Hu’s suspension, Wu said he had no mandate to suspend the mayor because the Executive Yuan did not directly oversee the operation of city governments.

Yu demanded that Wu punish Hu by giving him a major demerit and suspending him for six months, as per the precedent set by former premier Lien Chan (連戰) following a devastating explosion in 1995 at the city’s Wellcome-Western Cuisine restaurant, which killed 64.

Saying that Wu was trying to cover up errors made by Hu, Yu said Wu was a worse premier than Lien.

Wu said the authorities had launched an investigation into the case, while President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) also ordered erring officials to be punished.

“The responsible officials will be reprimanded when criminal and administrative responsibilities are clarified. It won’t take long,” Wu said.

The Local Government Act (地方制度法) should apply in the case rather than the Act on Discipline of Civil Servants as the DPP lawmakers suggested, Wu said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus urged the National Fire Agency to revise regulations to prohibit the use of torches and other open flame devices in performances inside buildings.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VINCENT Y. CHAO

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