Fri, Aug 08, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Minister offers to resign following gas explosions

FALLING ON HIS SWORD:Earlier yesterday, Chang Chia-juch was criticized as ‘heartless’ by legislators at a meeting of the legislature’s Economics Committee

By Kevin Chen and Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporters

Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch is pictured in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

The minister of economic affairs has become the latest victim of the usual game of finger-pointing in Taiwan’s political scene following the gas leaks that caused a series of deadly explosions in Greater Kaohsiung last week.

In a written statement issued yesterday evening, Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) said he had tendered his resignation to the Executive Yuan.

Chang said in the statement that he was resigning because of the “difficult political environment” as a result of the “persistent boycott by opposition parties” over several economic policies in the past one-and-a-half years.

“As the ministry’s major policies are still facing difficulties moving forward, I am exhausted,” Chang said.

Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) confirmed that Chang had offered to resign at 10am yesterday in a telephone call to Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺).

However, Sun said that in light of the efforts Chang had made to improve the nation’s economy, “Jiang would try to persuade Chang to stay on.”

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) fully supported Jiang’s decision to retain Chang, Presidential Office spokesman Ma Wei-kuo (馬瑋國) said.

In the wake of Chang’s resignation, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) said he would follow suit.

Duh’s resignation will be conditional on Chang’s.

Chang, who is in charge of the Central Disaster Response Center handling the aftermath of the explosions, said the ministry had made every effort in rescue and reconstruction work.

Earlier yesterday, Chang was criticized as “heartless” by legislators from the opposition party at a meeting of the legislature’s Economics Committee.

“How many times have you visited the explosion sites?” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) asked Chang. “Why are you still sitting here when the public memorial service for victims of the explosions last week is to be held this afternoon?”

Chen said the ministry should not blame the Greater Kaohsiung Government for the accident, since the ministry is in charge of the petrochemical industry.

Before Chang announced his resignation, four officials at the Greater Kaohsiung Government, including Deputy Mayor Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀), Water Resources Bureau Director Lee Hsien-yi (李賢義), Public Works Bureau Director Yang Ming-jou (楊明州) and Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit Bureau Director Chen Tsun-yung (陳存永), tendered their resignations to take responsibility for the blasts.

Their resignations came after Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) apologized for “poor horizontal coordination” among different bureaus following the revelation that the municipality’s Mass Rapid Transit Bureau had known about the existence of LCY Chemical Corp’s (李長榮化工) pipelines when it undertook a site investigation for a light rail system.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Kuo-cheng (林國正) made public an official document showing that LCY Chemical was invited by the Mass Rapid Transit Bureau to attend a meeting about the pipelines before the construction of the light rail system.

However, Chen Chu denied that she had lied about not knowing about LCY Chemical’s pipeline, saying the lapse was due to serious lack of coordination between departments.

Yang said although the regulations require pipeline owners to upload location information to the local government’s database, LCY Chemical’s pipeline records were absent from the bureau’s database.

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