Sun, Feb 01, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Control Yuan veto reflects fading SARS fears

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Three former Taipei City government officials accused of mishandling the SARS outbreak had their proposed impeachments vetoed by the Control Yuan probably because "the catastrophe brought by SARS has faded from everyone's memory," Control Yuan member Chao Chang-ping (趙昌平) said.

A nine-member panel voted on Friday to block the impeachment of former director of Taipei City Health Bureau Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) over her handling of the infection in Taipei last April.

The panel also vetoed impeachments against two former subordinates of Chiou, Wu Kang-wen (吳康文) and Lin Jong-ti (林榮第), who stood accused of attempting to cover up a SARS outbreak at Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital.

Former hospital superintendent Wu and former department director of infectious disease Lin have already been indicted by prosecutors and handed an eight-year jail term.

Prosecutors charged that the two had concealed the outbreak in the hospital, exacerbating the spread of the disease around the city.

The majority of the Control Yuan panel, however, voted no to administrative discipline for the two doctors.

"I was indeed surprised with the result of the vote," Control Yuan member Lee Shen-yi (李伸一) said.

Lee and Chao were two of four Control Yuan members engaged in the investigation of the three former officials.

"The conclusion of the investigation moved to impeach these three former city government officials because investigators recognized their dereliction of duty," Lee said.

"Our proposition emphasized the Control Yuan's opinion that officials] need to take responsibility for such negligence," he added.

Chao said that he would respect the decision of his colleagues in the Control Yuan but added that he had hoped that they would endorse his investigation.

The investigation into the three officials began in October after public criticism of Taipei City Government's health officials increased following the outbreak.

It took investigators, however, a long time to finish the investigation as they failed three times to gather the nine ombudsmen necessary to conclude the impeachment process.

Chao told reporters before Friday that there had been no interference from political circles and no city government personnel had lobbied on behalf of the former officials under investigation.

After Friday's meeting, however, Chao said that there might be calls to certain panel members expressing his concerns regarding the three.

"I did not receive any calls related to lobbying," Chao said, adding however that he could not rule out the possibility that some of his colleagues had been pressured before the voting.

An anonymous official from the Control Yuan, however, said that the vetoes were the best way to pull the Control Yuan out of a political dilemma.

The official said that that the watchdog body was unwilling to upset any political parties ahead of the presidential election.

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