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Fri, May 26, 2000 - Page 3 News List

New ministers learning the ropes

BACK TO SCHOOL The wet-behind-the-ears ministers had a rough week at the hands of legislators, but most are taking the beating as a learning experience

By Stephanie Low and Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Newly minted ministers, many of whom were scholars before accepting their new posts, received a barrage of lashings in the Legislative Yuan this week, with some acknowledging that despite their book smarts, they still have a lot to learn.

Lin Neng-pai (林能白), the new chairman of the Public Construction Commission, was mockingly called a "master of management" (管理大師) by legislators yesterday because he is the former dean of National Taiwan University's management college.

After being grilled for about three hours during an initial question-and-answer session at the legislature, Lin was visibly baffled.

"I've learned a lot," Lin said, chuckling with a bit of embarrassment. But, when asked if he considered himself unable to hold his ground against legislators' questions, the scholar-turned-official said, "it takes time to learn."

Members of the legislative Sci-tech and Information Committee poked fun at Lin's awkwardness and his responses to questions.

"Commission chairman, you should speak loud and bravely. Chin up and chest out (抬頭挺胸) please," said Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進), KMT legislator chairing the committee meeting, after witnessing Lin's demure response to lawmakers' questioning and humble "yes, yes" responses.

"When confronting questions from legislators, be brave," Lee told Lin before the next lawmaker opened fire at him.

Lin was not the only freshman minister to come under fire this week. Legislators took turns lecturing Minister of Education Ovid Tzeng (曾志朗) Wednesday as well, teaching him how a government official, in their minds, should properly behave.

The attacks against the education minister were largely a response to controversial remarks Tzeng made before assuming office.

"You publicly called legislators `outrageous' ... and this was spoken from the mouth of an education minister," said KMT legislator Wu Ko-ching (吳克清).

The grilling took place at the Legislative Yuan Education and Culture Committee, where a meeting was called to discuss a vote of no-confidence against Tzeng over a speech he made before taking office. In the speech, Tzeng implicated legislators for collecting kickbacks in construction projects and described legislators as "outrageous."

Tzeng was challenged to name the legislators specifically, rather than "dragging every one through the dirt."

"A government official must watch his words and behavior. This is basic knowledge," said Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), another KMT legislator. Hung, however, light-heartedly expressed her understanding of the cause behind the problem.

"The DPP has never been in charge of affairs," Hung said. "You [the new government] should have invited an experienced official from the KMT to give you some lectures," Hung said.

Tzeng was a cognitive psychologist and president of National Yang Ming University before being appointed education minister and had never worked for the government before. His outspoken and casual style has been a trademark of his academic career.

Now that he is forced to wear a tie -- which is what he says he hates the most -- in his new position, he will have to learn that the language he used as a scholar will need to change.

"I admit that it was my fault to speak in such a straightforward manner based on my past perception as a scientist, before making any verification," Tzeng said, repeating his apology to legislators yesterday.

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