Sun, Oct 16, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Premier under pressure from friends and foes

CRITICISM Frank Hsieh is under fire in the wake of several missteps by Cabinet members, and even some of his DPP allies are now calling for change

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) heavyweight and Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) is facing his greatest challenge since taking his oath of office in February, as his Cabinet team comes under criticism by political enemies, the public and even DPP colleagues.

Since being promoted to premier from his previous post, Kaohsiung City mayor, Hsieh has lost two long-term allies -- former vice minister of the interior Lin Yung-chien (林永堅) and former Taiwan Water Corporation (TWC) chairman Lee Wen-liang (李文良) -- who have stepped down to take responsibility for various political mistakes.

In addition, Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Pasuya Yao's (姚文智) position is in jeopardy after several missteps recently.

Cabinet blunders

Lin was Hsieh's deputy when Hsieh was mayor in Kaohsiung. His straight personality was not popular among the public or the press, but he won Hsieh's trust and was almost always promoted whenever Hsieh needed help. When Hsieh became premier, Lin was immediately promoted to vice minister of the interior.

Lin first became a focus of the press in April, when he proposed lowering the limit on money transfers through automatic teller machines (ATMs) from NT$100,000 (US$2,990) a day to NT$10,000 a day. His proposal was immediately criticized and Hsieh withdrew the measure within a day, and then re-announced the new limit as NT$30,000 a day to ease public criticism.

But Lin became the target of attacks again and eventually left his post to take responsibility for police forces' handling of violent clashes that occurred between pan-blue and the pan-green camp supporters at CKS International Airport when former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) was departing for China on April 26, in which 15 people were injured. The police forces come under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior.

Lee, meanwhile, shares some similarities with Lin in his background and relationship with the premier. Lee was director-general of Kaohsiung City Government's Economic Affairs Bureau during Hsieh's mayoral term and was well-known for his discretion.

In addition, his connections with politicians from other parties and local business leaders were also recognized to be an asset by Hsieh, so he was promoted to head the TWC when Hsieh became premier.

Lee, however, stepped down to take political responsibility for problems in supplying water to parts of Taoyuan a few months ago.

GIO head Yao, meanwhile, has come under criticism after several missteps. His first mistake came when traveling with the president to the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Fiji in May, when the GIO failed to help the press transmit footage of the trip back to Taiwan by satellite.

At the time he was not blamed though, as he was new to the post.

But during a trip with the president last month he was reported to have slacked off, and was said to have gone drinking with a stewardess one night and fooled around with the president's nurses on the beach.

During a presidential press conference, he was caught taking a nap. Afterward, he gave inaccurate information to the press about the president's policies and comments regarding a funding project for Central American allies.

Amid the scandals, Yao has begun to face criticism from within the DPP camp. DPP Legislator Wang Shih-chien (王世堅), an ally of Hsieh, complained about Yao's performance and asked the premier to relieve him of his duties.

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