Former minister of education Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) yesterday defended his decision to approve the appointment of National Taiwan University (NTU) president-elect Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) as “the right thing” to do “at the right time” after resigning amid a flurry of criticism over his handling of the issue.
Yeh, who took office on July 16, became the third minister of eduction to step down over the NTU presidential election controversy following former ministers Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) and Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆).
“I could have left the ministry without resolving the issue, but I chose to bravely take responsibility for that,” he told reporters at the ministry.
Photo: Wo Po-hsuan, Taipei Times
“I did not just resolve the issue, but I did it in a manner that was in line with university autonomy and legal procedures, and based on my conscience,” he said. “I believe I did the right thing at the right time.”
Although he had to step down, he said he was glad for being “the one who resolved the issue.”
He had done his best in handling the issue knowing it would be impossible to keep everyone happy, he said.
“I hope that my decision to take responsibility and carry the cross would bring things back to normal and allow education to function again,” he said, adding that he could not bear seeing education being stalled at the expense of social opposition.
He said the controversy had led to social opposition beyond the university and he hoped his departure would bring relief to all.
“If my colleagues and I could confront such a difficult issue, can our society please let things go too?” he added
The former minister offered his resignation letter to Premier William Lai (賴清德) at the Executive Yuan at 1pm, saying he was sorry for the criticism his decision has drawn, Executive Yuan Secretary-General Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) told a news conference.
Lai did not ask him to stay, but “reluctantly approved” his resignation, Cho said.
The Executive Yuan respects any decision the ministry makes regarding the NTU election, but it must be informed in advance, Cho said.
Yeh only briefly informed Lai via a text message about an hour before he made the announcement to appoint Kuan, and although Lai asked him to carefully reconsider his decision, Yeh did not report back, Cho said.
“I personally believe the process should have been more cautious,” Cho said, adding that respecting each other is essential.
Before Yeh visited the Executive Yuan, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had discussed with Lai the ministry’s handling of the NTU controversy at the Presidential Office Building, Presidential Office spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明) said before the Executive Yuan news conference.
“Tsai believed the way the matter was handled yesterday was too abrupt. In particular, ruling party legislators were not aware of the decision,” he said.
Tsai had asked the Executive Yuan to handle the matter properly, he said.
Meanwhile, NTU said it is in the process of arranging Kuan’s appointment.
Asked to comment on his appointment, Kuan told reporters waiting outside his office at NTU that he has “no special feelings,” because the school has not yet informed him of its decision.
Additional reporting by Su Yung-yao
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