Sun, Feb 11, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Chen Chi-mai's appointment draws mixed reaction

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The appointment of Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) as deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office drew mixed reaction yesterday with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators lauding the president's choice and the opposition criticizing the appointment.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) announced several major appointments, including that of Chen Chi-mai, on Friday.

This was the president's second wave of key appointments this week. Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), secretary-general of the National Security Council, and Mark Chen (陳唐山), secretary general of the Presidential Office, swapped positions earlier this week.

The DPP legislative caucus said Chen Chi-mai was a "very appropriate" choice for the post.

Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), DPP legislator and caucus whip, said that Chen Chi-mai had served three terms as a legislator and had wide administrative experience, having served as a minister without portfolio and Cabinet spokesman.

For his part, Chen Chi-mai vowed to serve with humility, saying he would do his utmost to assist President Chen in cross-strait and diplomatic affairs.

However, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and its ally the People First Party (PFP) questioned the president's motive in appointing Chen Chi-mai, a protege of the president and a rising star until a Thai labor riot in 2005 brought an abrupt stop to his otherwise smooth political career.

Chen Chi-mai stepped down as acting Kaohsiung mayor to take responsibility for a riot in August 2005 by Thai laborers working on the city's mass rapid transit system (MRT) to protest their harsh treatment and inhumane management.

Subsequent investigations into the riot uncovered a series of irregularities in the MRT project involving Chen Che-nan (陳哲男), former deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office and the father of Chen Chi-mai.

Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍), KMT legislator and caucus whip, said Chen Che-nan was indicted for influence peddling and as a result the public has a poor impression of Chen Che-nan and his son.

"The president has a total disregard for public sentiment and is only thinking of his own protege," she said.

KMT Legislator Alex Fai (費鴻泰) said that the president's latest wave of personnel appointments was a signal that Chen was afraid of being perceived as a "lame duck" before his second term expires in May next year.

Lai said that the president had invited his protege to help him with preparing for two major elections ahead -- the year-end legislative elections and the presidential election in March next year -- to prove that he was still in command.

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