Sat, Sep 24, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Legislature grinds to a halt as MRT fallout continues

BY JIMMY CHUANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye yawns during an interpellation session, as all legislators put their focus on the Kaohsiung MRT scandal.

PHOTO: LIU HSIN-DE, TAIPEI TIMES

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers continued to give Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) a hard time after he returned to the legislative floor yesterday to try to deliver his administrative briefing.

Hsieh arrived at the Legislative Yuan around 9am yesterday, and went to the podium to carry out his briefing. However, before he could, KMT lawmakers started vociferously complaining about his policies regarding the Kaohsiung MRT project, saying that the government's decision to import and hire Thai laborers took away job opportunities for local laborers.

"It was you who decided to hire foreign laborers since you were the Kaohsiung City mayor back then," said Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), the KMT's Kaohsiung legislator. "Don't you think that by making that decision, you also took away job opportunities for our own people?"

In response, Hsieh said working on the Kaohsiung MRT was a dangerous job with small paychecks -- less than NT$30,000 per month. The Kaohsiung City Government decided to hire foreign laborers, because not enough local workers would accept job offers to work on the project.

"We cannot abandon the project just because we do not have enough manpower, can we? Hiring foreign workers was the only suitable way to solve that problem back then," Hsieh answered.

KMT lawmakers have been taking advantage of the Kaohsiung MRT workers riot to question and attack Hsieh ever since the new legislative session began last week. They asked their Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) colleagues to endorse a proposal to organize a special task force to investigate such scandals and asked the premier to apologize over the issue.

The premier said he was sorry about the riot, because it was the government's responsibility to take care of problems related to foreign workers. But he showed his support for the decision to hire Thai workers.

"I have no regrets and no apology for this because my fellow colleagues in the Kaohsiung City Government and I did not do anything wrong," he said.

In addition to the MRT issue, KMT Taoyuan Legislator Lin Cheng-feng (林正峰) also asked why the Cabinet would purchase full-page advertisements regarding its NT$80 billion budget proposal for flood prevention, which were placed in major Chinese-language newspapers yesterday. Hsieh told him that he decided to do so to seek more support from the public.

"Some political enemies have taken advantage of this proposal and said that we are using it as a tool for the year-end elections. We need to do something to clarify the issue and let our people know that the proposal has nothing to do with politics. It is made for securing our homes," Hsieh said.

"According to the proposal that you submitted, a lot of counties, especially those ruled by the pan-blue, do not share any part of the proposal. That means there will not be any flood prevention construction for these counties. Is that fair?" Lin said.

"It is hard for me to believe it has nothing to do with politics if that is the case," Lin said.

Hsieh told Lin that the proposal is merely a rough plan.

"We will distribute this money to every county fairly after we evaluate each county's needs," he explained.

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