Thu, Dec 22, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Taitung chief embarrasses government

By Jimmy Chuang Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The central government has been outmaneuvered and embarrassed by a renegade county commissioner, but would prevail in the end through legal means, officials said yesterday.

Taitung County Commissioner Wu Chun-li (吳俊立) has humiliated the central government over the past two days, Government Information Office Minister Pasuya Yao (姚文智) said.

"Nobody is allowed to challenge the law. What Wu has done, including his fake `divorce' with his wife, sets a bad example for the public," Yao said.

Yao made his remarks during a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday morning. Yao said that the central government was handling Wu's case by following the law, but that Wu's appointment of his wife as deputy was truly unexpected.

The minister said that as Wu had been suspended upon being sworn in as commissioner, he did not have the right to appoint a deputy.

Under these circumstances, the government will appoint an acting commissioner to do his job temporarily, he said.

Yao quoted Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) as saying that Wu's case must be solved by following the law and that the law cannot be challenged in the manner that he has done.

Wu was convicted of corruption by the Taiwan High Court but has appealed the ruling. In the meantime, he has also been charged with vote-buying and is currently out on NT$1 million (US$29,800) bail.

By law, Wu would be immediately suspended from his position upon his swearing-in. Knowing this, Wu divorced his wife Kuang Li-chen (鄺麗貞) on Monday to sidestep a restriction preventing a commissioner from selecting a relative or spouse as his deputy.

Wu appointed Kuang before Minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples Walis Pelin (瓦歷斯貝林), who administered his swearing-in, could stop him.

However, Pelin said that Wu's suspension was effective immediately upon his being sworn in and that he therefore did not have the right to name a deputy.

The Taitung County Government said that Kuang and its Secretary-General Lai Shun-hsien (賴順賢), who was appointed as the acting commissioner by the Cabinet, both reported for duty but that all of the official documents were reviewed by Lai.

Although Wu is suspended, he can still run in a by-election by resigning and retaking the oath of office if re-elected.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said yesterday that Wu's appointment of his spouse as his deputy was illegal and the public should support the government's move to suspend him from the post.

DPP Legislator Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), a former attorney, said that Wu did not have the right to name a deputy because he was suspended upon taking office.

Even though Wu thought his actions were valid, Hsu said that he had violated the Public Officials Conflict of Interest Prevention Law (公職人員利益衝突迴避法) by naming someone related to him, making him subject to a fine of up to NT$5 million.

Although Wu divorced his wife on Monday, Hsu said that it should be considered invalid because it violates Article 87 of the civil code for plotting a fake divorce.

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