Fri, Dec 12, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Minister responds to Ma’s request over UN covenants

By Shih Hsiu-chuan , STAFF REPORTER

In response to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) request the previous day that two UN covenants on human rights be referred to the legislature for approval, Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said yesterday that the two documents had been stalled in the legislature since February.

Ma brought up the matter on Human Rights Day, while addressing a Taiwan Foundation for Democracy ceremony, saying that he had asked Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) to approve the international covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

But his remarks made him appear out of touch for the second time this week following his suggestion that the Executive Yuan should consider withholding year-end bonuses for state-owned enterprise employees after they had already been paid out.

Liu put the issue on the agenda of the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday at the last minute, but not to approve or disapprove the two covenants.

Instead, Ou gave a briefing on how the two covenants were being processed at the meeting.

After that, Ou told a press conference that there was no need for the Cabinet to make a referral of the two covenants to the legislature again as they were sent by the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration on Feb. 19.

Ou said that the Executive Yuan will actively communicate with the legislature on the matter, adding that “now there is a good chance for the two covenants to gain legislative approval as the ruling [Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)] party is the majority in the legislature.”

During the DPP’s rule from 2000 to this May, the Executive Yuan also sought the legislature, controlled by the KMT and its pan-blue ally the People First Party, to approve the two covenants in the fourth, the fifth, and the sixth term of legislature in 2001, 2002 and 2005.

The two covenants, however, were never put onto the agenda of the legislature’s Procedure Committee, also dominated by the pan-blue camp.

Ma’s recent remarks about the year-end bonus system for state-owned employees also gave some lawmakers the impression he has a limited understanding of the long-existing practice.

During an interview with FTV on Tuesday, Ma said that he would ask the Executive Yuan to take public opinion into account to determine whether such bonuses, which were viewed by many in the private sector as inappropriately large, should be held off given the state of economy and the fact that many state-owned businesses actually suffered losses this year.

But the next day, Ministry of Economic Affairs Minister Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) said that the bonuses had already been distributed and the amounts of the bonus were based on work performance by employees and on profits earned last year and not this year.

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