Thu, Oct 06, 2005 - Page 3 News List

President accepts advisers' resignations

KAOHSIUNG MRT SCANDAL Both Chen Che-nan and Chen Min-hsien have been embroiled in an investigation triggered by a riot by Thai laborers in late August

BY CHIU YU-TZU  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday approved the resignations of Chen Che-nan (陳哲男), a national policy adviser to the president, and Chen Min-hsien (陳敏賢), adviser to the president and deputy director of the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp. Both men have come under fire -- and investigation -- in connection with the hiring of workers to help build the Kaohsiung MRT system.

A press release from the Presidential Office's public affairs department yesterday said that the two resignations were reviewed seriously.

"The Presidential Office would like to adopt higher standards in evaluating the case, hoping that investigators would probe into it and get clues sooner," the statement said.

According to the department, the president fully backs the prosecutors investigating the case and believes that the rank of those being investigated should not be a factor in any probe.

What role, if any, either Chen Che-nan or Chen Min-hsien played in the hiring of Thai workers for the Kaohsiung system has been the center of a scandal over the project in the wake of a riot by some of the Thai laborers in late August.

Investigators are trying to trace the links between the two men and the decision to hire Thai workers to help build the MRT system.

The pan-blue camp was quick to criticize the president's decision to accept the resignations.

The People First Party (PFP) caucus said Chen Che-nan's resignation was a bid to protect a higher-ranking official and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus asked that he be barred from leaving the country.

KMT caucus whip Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) also called on Chen Che-nan to provide an explanation for his actions before he leaves the political arena.

PFP Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said the resignations must not be seen as the end of the matter because the truth is not yet known.

PFP Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) questioned President Chen's rejection of Chen Che-nan's plan to visit Japan last month and asked the Presidential Office to explain why a presidential adviser needed the president's approval to go overseas.

Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成) got into a heated debate with KMT Legislator Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) over the resignations and Chen Che-nan's travel plans during a meeting of the legislature's Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.

When Chen Che-nan asked for leave last month to visit the World Expo in Aichi his request was rejected by the Presidential Office on the grounds that he needed to stay in the country to help with the prosecutors' investigation.

Ma told Kuo that the president thought that it wasn't the right time for Chen Che-nan to be making a foreign trip.

Ma rejected Kuo's assertion that the Presidential Office had turned a blind eye to allegations of abuse that arose in the wake of the riot.

Ma said that President Chen had told him that he would be extremely distraught if Thai workers hired to build Kaohsiung's subway system were found to have been exploited.

Meanwhile, the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office said Chen Che-nan has not been barred from leaving the country.

Chung Chung-hsiao (鍾忠孝), spokesman for the prosecutors office, said yesterday that prosecutors have reviewed records of calls made by Chen Che-nan, Chen Min-hsien and Wang Tsai-pi (王彩碧), a woman working for a labor brokerage with connections in Thailand.

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