Typhoon Haitung yesterday sparked a war of words between Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Taipei Mayor and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman-elect of the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), as the two traded barbs in public.
"I think Mayor Ma is way too sensitive. He is an untouchable man at the moment," Hsieh said yesterday.
The verbal battle began on Monday, when Hsieh criticized Ma for not deploying enough municipal workers to clean up the debris strewn about the streets of Taipei in the wake of Typhoon Haitung.
"I hope local governments would clean up the mess as soon as possible so the mess caused by the typhoon won't become a threat to public safety," the premier said.
Ma, in turn, said immediately after the criticism that it was inappropriate to order the city's garbage collectors to clean up the streets in the midst of the storm. But, it was definitely their jobs to do so afterwards, he noted."I think the premier's remarks had nothing to do with politics."
Adding fuel to the fire, Cabinet spokesman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said that Ma was still the mayor of Taipei after winning the KMT chairmanship, and urge him not to neglect his duties as mayor -- an appeal that angered Ma.
"I think Ma should use his intelligence and make a decision whether or not his job as mayor is more important his new job as KMT chairman," Cho said.
In addition, Cho noted that the KMT's central standing committee meetings are held every Wednesday morning, so it will become difficult for Ma to attend weekly Cabinet meetings, which are also scheduled for every Wednesday morning.
"[Ma] is still welcome to attend the [Cabinet] meeting. He is supposed to know about the goings-on of the Cabinet but never turns up for meetings," Cho said.
Ma promptly rebutted Cho's remarks. "I really do not understand what his concern is," he said. "The premier was the Democratic Progressive Party's chairman for two years while he was the Kaohsiung mayor at the same time. This wasn't a problem for Hsieh and it won't be a problem for me." Ma said.
In addition, Ma noted that Hsieh announced in February that the mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung can decide on their own whether or not they wish to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting.
"Whether or not I will be showing up or not in the future will not be a problem at all, will it?" Ma said.