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Wed, Feb 28, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Chang Chun-hsiung says firings for spill won't undermine political stability


Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) said yesterday that he would think carefully about how to punish high-ranking officials for their poor performance in handling the recent oil spill in southern Taiwan, so as not to cause any political instability.

According to the Cabinet's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (研考會), a list of names of officials who are suspected of administrative incompetence in the handling of the spill has been delivered to Chang. Three of the people on the list are high-ranking officials, including Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) head Lin Jun-yi (林俊義) and his deputy James Lee (李界木).

Legislators rounded on the premier and the officials involved after the release of the list yesterday.

"Did the implicated officials hide the truth from you?" KMT Legislator Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) asked the premier at a meeting yesterday.

Chang said that he did not hear anything about the oil spill until Jan. 29.

The spill occurred in the seas off the Kenting National Park in Pingtung County on Jan. 14 when the Greek cargo ship M.V. Amorgos ran aground in bad weather after an engine malfunction.

Neither the EPA or the Ministry of Transportation and Communications did anything when oil began leaking from the wreck on Jan. 18.

The task force set up by the Cabinet to deal with the spill estimated that over 1,150 tonnes of oil leaked out of the stricken vessle onto nearby reefs and the coast.

"I'll take several factors into account, including professional performance, the reaction of the public and the effect on political stability," Chang said at the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

Chang is reportedly cautious about how to punish the high-level officials involved in case it initiates a Cabinet reshuffle, which would be politically destabilizing.

Answering legislators at the Legislative Yuan yesterday, EPA head Lin said that some early media coverage on the oil spill case had exaggerated the scope of the problem.

Transportation and communications minister Yeh said that she would not try to avoid responsibility for the ministry's poor performance in the salvage work.

Other high-ranking administrative officials on the list include Chang Chia-juch (張家祝), MOTC administrative vice minister; Wu Rong-quey (吳榮貴), head of the MOTC's navigation and aviation department; and Roam Gwo-dong (阮國棟), former director-general of the EPA's Bureau of Water Quality Protection.

Some EPA officials said yesterday that the punishment was politically motivated. EPA officials said that they dealt properly with the oil spill and that the ongoing cleanup work was proceeding smoothly.

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