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Tue, Aug 29, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Legislators mull deferring interpellation

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Debate over whether the Legislative Yuan is to defer general interpellation in the new legislative session escalated yesterday following President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) confirmation that he had suggested lawmakers should do so.

Chen confirmed in a press conference yesterday that he had suggested that Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), speaker of the Legislative Yuan, defer a question-and-answer session between legislators and Cabinet members in the new legislative session, which is scheduled to begin on Sept. 1.

Chen said that he made the suggestion because lawmakers had just completed an interpellation session at the end of July in the previous legislative session.

Chen's confirmation was triggered by a statement made by Wang from the US on Sunday that Chen had proposed he arrange for such a delay so that Cabinet members would have time to get familiar with their jobs.

This roused fierce debate in the legislature yesterday. While opposition party lawmakers slammed Chen's idea, calling it "ridiculous," DPP legislators sided with the president, who is a DPP member.

"It's ridiculous to defer the interpellation so as to allow the Cabinet a long period of on-the-job training," said Chen Chen-sheng (陳振盛), convener of the People First Party legislative caucus.

Chen's counterpart from the New Party, Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆). echoed his view. "The Cabinet has been in operation for over three months, so Chen's proposal is totally unacceptable," Lai said.

The Legislative Yuan holds two sessions each year -- the first session normally running from February to May and the second from September to December. The normal procedure is for lawmakers to question Cabinet members immediately after the completion of the Premier's administrative policy report, which usually takes place before the end of February and again before the end of September.

But Premier Tang Fei's (唐飛) poor health, triggered by chest surgery, prompted lawmakers to agree on May 30 to postpone the interpellation to early July to facilitate Tang's recovery.

Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), KMT party whip in the legislature, said the KMT legislative caucus hasn't reached any agreement as to whether to allow another exception to take place.

Perng Shaw-jiin (彭紹瑾), a DPP legislative caucus leader, said he supported the president's proposal because questioning Cabinet members at this time may be "ineffective" as lawmakers had just finished grilling the Cabinet a short time ago.

The decision over the timing of the interpellation is contingent upon results of cross-party negotiations, if any, over the issue, Perng said.

Political analysts said while Chen's proposal is not flawed, legally speaking, it carries a political motivation that conflicts with opposition party interests.

Hwang Giin-tarng (黃錦堂), political analyst at National Taiwan University, said once the general interpellation session begins in the legislature, the local media's focus will shift from reporting on the administration's execution of policy and turn to the shortcomings of the administration as revealed by lawmakers' questions.

"Chen simply doesn't want to see the Cabinet being raked over the coals once again in the legislature -- at least not so soon. After all, that won't benefit his administration's image," Hwang said.

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