Wed, Jul 26, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Ma defends city's role in cable-car episode

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday acknowledged the Taipei City Government's passiveness in handling the Beitou cable car project, while accusing the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) of "shifting the focus" of the issue.

Several MOI officials including Vice Minister of the Interior Yen Wan-chin (顏萬進) were detained last week by the Taipei District Court on suspicion of taking bribes in connection with the construction of a cable car project in Taipei's Beitou (北投) District.

Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) and an environmental group, however, took aim at the city government, which is the supervisory agency of the project, blaming it for altering the project so that it would not require an environmental impact assessment.

"The project was led by Ma Ying-jeou's Taipei City Government ... But he blamed the central government," Lee said yesterday during a press conference.

Ma yesterday repeated that the city government had no involvement in the case.

"Our staff members may not be sufficiently alert [to the flaws of the construction]. Maybe they should be more active, but so far I don't see any signs suggesting that they are involved in the scandal," Ma said yesterday after presiding over a municipal meeting at Taipei City Hall.

Clarification

The city government has held three press conferences recently in an attempt to clarify the issue. Four staff members from the department were summoned by the prosecutors on Monday as witnesses. In the face of a series accusations, Ma said he was willing to explain the matter to the prosecutors if necessary.

Ma yesterday repeated that the original cable car project, which was approved by the Executive Yuan in 1995, included the construction of a cable car system from Qinshui Park in Xinbeitou (新北投) to Yangmingshan (陽明山) National Park, cable car stations and stores, but did not include the construction of hot spring hotels.

Facing accusations from Lin Tzu-ling (林子凌), secretary general of the Wild At Heart Legal Defense Association, who said that it was the city government not the ministry that added "a training dormitory and hot spring hotel" to the project proposal in 2004, Lee Shu-chuan (李四川), director of the Bureau of Public Works' New Construction department, yesterday showed documents to prove that the ministry had added the items last year.

"It was the MOI that added the two items last year, not the city government. I think they made a mistake regarding the time," he said yesterday during a press conference, adding that the right to issue construction licenses belonged to the ministry as 90 percent of the project was located within the national park.

Opportunity

Shrugging off criticism from the environmental group, Ma said that the groups opposed the project from the beginning, and the scandal provided them with an opportunity to criticize the city government.

"[The MOI and environmental groups] should not shift the focus. This is a bribery scandal. We can examine possible flaws in the administrative procedures, but it shouldn't be confused with the scandal," he said.

Lee said the construction below Yangmingshan will continue as the area is outside the boundaries of the national park and the city government will not rescind the project contract unless it is proved guilty.

Taipei Information Department Director Lo Chih-cheng (羅智成) yesterday asked Lee to offer an apology for his staff's involvement in the scandal, rather than finding faults with the city government.

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