Wed, May 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

President's actions spark speculation about premier

LOSING CONFIDENCE President Chen Shui-bian has been taking a greater role in the Cabinet's affairs, suggesting to some that Yu Shyi-kun is losing power

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Yu Shyi-kun seems to have played a marginal role in recent government policy-making and some say his poor performance has eroded President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) confidence in him and led the president to act in areas ordinarily reserved for the Cabinet.

Opposition KMT and PFP legislative caucuses yesterday even ridiculed Yu's influence as the nation's highest administrative officer as "evaporating from this veil of tears."

"What President Chen has done recently clearly encroaches on the constitutional authority of the Executive Yuan and causes administrative disorder," said KMT legislative caucus Secretary-General Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻). "The premier should get tough and refuse to be merely the rubber stamp for the president."

DPP legislative caucus Secretary-General Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), however, retorted by saying that Liu was clueless about the situation.

"His remarks simply demonstrated his ignorance because what the premier did in the fight against SARS has been well documented by the media," Chen Chi-mai said.

Jumping to Yu's defense, Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said yesterday that the relationship between the premier and the president has never been stronger.

"The talk about the relationship turning sour is totally groundless and it's unfair to the premier," Lin said. "I hope opposition lawmakers will offer more encouragement and constructive opinions than irrational criticism."

Lin said that recent government policies to deal with the SARS crisis -- including extending the deadline for some tax returns, leave restrictions on military personnel and nationwide temperature checks -- were first proposed by the premier and then approved by the president.

Although Chen Shui-bian does not have the constitutional authority to interfere in certain domestic affairs, he did -- during a videoconference with Yu on Monday -- instruct the Cabinet to study the possibility of extending by one month the June 2 deadline for filing last year's tax returns.

Chen Shui-bian also asked the Ministry of National Defense to loosen restrictions on military leave, which have been in place since May 13 to help prevent the spread of SARS.

The leave restrictions had created discontent within the military because Chen Shui-bian's son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), who is serving his compulsory military service at the Navy General Headquarters in Taipei, was still allowed to take his leave.

Responding to the proposal made by Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) to launch a nationwide temperature check, the president asked the Cabinet to study the possibility of implementing such a measure.

In yet another surprising move, Chen on May 20 asked the Cabinet to push for a referendum on the country's entry into the World Health Organization following the nation's failed bid to join the World Health Assembly.

The Cabinet was once again caught off guard on May 24 when Chen Shui-bian announced that the government would spend approximately NT$120 billion to build three separate rail links to CKS International Airport, in an effort to boost local economies affected by SARS.

The decision shelved an earlier six-year effort to have private contractors construct the build-operate-transfer (BOT) project.

A day earlier, Chen announced that he had invited KMT Vice Chairman Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) to chair a special economic advisory panel to handle the economic fallout from the SARS outbreak.

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