Mon, Jan 20, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Yang Teh-chih caught in the middle

TUG-OF-WAR The head of the Veterans Affairs Commission is in a tough spot as he tries to balance the interests of the party to which he belongs and those of the government

By Ko Shu-Ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yang Teh-chih, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Commission.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

Although Yang Teh-chih (楊德智), chairman of the Cabinet's Veterans Affairs Commission, has tendered his resignation several times since last September for what he said were health reasons, it is widely believed that his desire to quit is the result of political pressure.

A KMT member, the 62-year-old Ilan native stayed in his current position after the transfer of power in 2000 and was reappointed last February during the first Cabinet reshuffle of the DPP-led government.

The KMT suspended Yang for violating a party policy that prohibits members from assuming political appointments in the DPP government.

The KMT has also suspended the party rights of Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) and Liu San-chi (劉三琦), head of the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics.

Caught between his own party and the DPP-led government, Yang has been given a hard time by the legislature.

The hike in the monthly allowance for retired veterans is a good example. While Yang wanted to increase the amount from NT$13,100 per person to NT$13,550, the DPP's tiny TSU ally opposed the plan. The TSU said the government should not favor retired soldiers over other groups, especially at a time when the nation is experiencing financial trouble.

The TSU joined forces with the DPP to boycott the proposal and the commission's annual budget. With the help of his own party and the PFP the plan was eventually approved by the legislature.

Yang, however, did not win the support of the opposition camp easily. Opposition lawmakers once called him a "KMT traitor who conspires with the DPP at the expense of the interests of veterans."

Fighting media speculation that the Cabinet would be reshuffled after the Lunar New Year, Premier Yu Shyi-kun confirmed on Saturday that Yang had expressed his desire to quit for health reasons.

Yang issued a press release later that day saying that he wanted to quit because of health problems and that he has completed the tasks to which he had been assigned.

Insisting that national stability is paramount, Yu turned down Yang's request to resign and said that he would like all government officials to stick to their post.

Although the premier refused to let Yang go, sources in the Cabinet told the Taipei Times yesterday that Yu might have to let go of Yang if the Presidential Office insists on meddling in the Cabinet's authority and forcing Yang to leave.

"As far as I know, an influential individual at the Presidential Office wants him [Yang] to go," the source said. "As Yang has already tendered his resignation, it's now up to the Presidential Office to decide whether to keep him."

The Presidential Office has been planning to let civilians, rather than soldiers, head the Veterans Affairs Commission as well as the armed forces.

Yang is a former commander of the military's combined logistics command (聯勤總部). Speculation is rife that former lawmaker Chien Hsi-chieh, now a peace activist, and Teng Chu-lin (鄧祖琳), director of the Political Warfare Bureau under the Ministry of National Defense, are among the leading candidates to succeed Yang.

Commenting on the speculation, Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political observer and editor in chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine, said that Chien would be a better choice.

"The government should seriously consider neutralizing the commission, which has long been manipulated by the KMT as a voting machine," Chin said.

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