Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) chairman Ou Chin-der’s (歐晉德) surprise resignation drew criticism yesterday from lawmakers on the legislature’s Transportation Committee, who said the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) must not try to keep him and he should also be removed as chief executive of the company.
Ou, who resigned as chairman late on Wednesday night, had been scheduled to brief the committee yesterday morning about how the company handled a series of operational incidents over the past year.
He did not show up, on the grounds that he was no longer the company’s chairman.
THSRC spokesperson Ted Chia (賈先德) was sent by Ou to represent the company instead.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡奇昌), the committee’s chairperson, said that Ou should still have come to the meeting and ordered a one-hour recess to give him time to arrive.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said that he was “shocked” to hear of Ou’s resignation.
He said that he knew that Ou had met with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Wednesday evening and had called Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) about resigning, but Yeh said he did not receive confirmation that Ou was stepping down until 10:45pm on Wednesday, when MOTC Deputy Minister Chen Jian-yu (陳建宇) told him he had received a faxed resignation letter from Ou.
“Despite his resignation, Ou is still the chief executive officer,” Yeh said. “He would be disrespecting the Legislative Yuan as well as his supervisors if he does not show up.”
However, Ou did not show up at the committee meeting, triggering a joint condemnation from lawmakers who said he had shown contempt for the legislature and was trying to avoid governmental supervision.
“He had the nerve to raise ticket prices, but did not dare to come and answer questions from us,” DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said.
“I suggest he come to the meeting as long as he is still the CEO of the company,” Kuan said.
DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said the fact that Ou spoke to Ma and the vice premier about resigning first showed that he had completely ignored the transportation minister and that his resignation right before yesterday’s meeting was a “slap in the face” to Yeh Kuang-shih.
Ou insisted upon raising ticket prices last year, against Yeh Kuang-shih’s advice.
Commenting on the series of problems the rail system had suffered after the price hike, Yeh Kuang-shih described the company’s performance as “disappointing” and “intolerable.”
Ou’s announcement last week that he would be acting as a general consultant to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei mayoral hopeful Sean Lien’s (連勝文) campaign drew a reminder from Yeh Kuang-shih that he should focus on managing the rail company and needed to ask permission from the THSRC’s board of directors before he assumed other positions.
Yeh Kuang-shih denied media speculation at the time that he intended to force Ou to resign, adding that he was simply reminding Ou of his priorities.
Chia said Ou had denied that his resignation had anything with his role in Lien’s campaign.
“Mr Ou simply said that the incidents occurred with the high speed rail recently had caused inconvenience to passengers and felt he should take full responsibility for it. Even though he is the company’s CEO, he had indicated that he would leave as soon as the board of directors found his replacement,” the THSRC spokesman said, adding that Ou’s decision just happened to be made on Wednesday night.