Thu, Aug 13, 2009 - Page 3 News List

MORAKOT: THE AFTERMATH: Ire over government rejection of foreign help

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators across party lines yesterday panned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for rejecting assistance offered by the US and Japan, while Web users launched a campaign urging the government to change its mind.

“The government is incapable of dealing with the aftermath of the disaster caused by Typhoon Morakot and is too arrogant to [accept help from] other countries,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英) said. “I think their rejection is out of fear of losing face.”

Taiwan should welcome all help in this situation, especially considering the government’s response has not been well-organized, she said.

“Even if we’re capable of taking care of the aftermath ourselves, extra help wouldn’t hurt,” she said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Liao Wan-ju (廖婉汝), who represents a Pingtung County electorate and is in the disaster area helping with relief efforts, called the ministry’s decision incomprehensible.

“The situation here [in Pingtung] is better now, but we still have a long way to go before we can say we’ve recovered,” Liao told the Taipei Times over the phone. “We certainly need all the help we can get — whether domestic or foreign — so I don’t understand why MOFA turned down [help].”

When disasters occur abroad, Taiwan never hesitates to offer help, she said.

“Now that we’re in trouble, there’s nothing wrong with accepting help from other countries,” she said. “Isn’t it a good thing that countries help each other out?”

MOFA said Taiwan did not need foreign assistance on Tuesday.

MOFA Spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said yesterday that Taiwan would seek help from the international community if necessary, “but so far, we are still handling [the situation] well.”

Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), a political science professor at Soochow University, urged the public to let the world know help is needed, despite what the government says.

“MOFA said ‘no’ to the international community on behalf of the Taiwanese people, but the people never said ‘no,’” Lo said.

PTT Bulletin Board System users launched a petition campaign calling on the government not to turn down offers of help when hundreds of people have yet to be rescued.

A sample petition letter was soon posted on Web sites, online forums and personal blogs, with Internet users urging everyone to send a copy to the Presidential Office.

“Though the people and the government of Taiwan are making every effort in the aftermath of the typhoon, a lot of people and places are still waiting to be rescued,” said the letter to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), written by PTT user “Develop.”

“We urgently need more people and professional teams to join the efforts,” it said.

“People in the disaster zone can not wait, because it’s a race against time,” the letter said. “Please accept help from the international community to get these victims out of the critical situations they’re in as soon as possible.”

The letter was soon posted on several Web sites, online forums, and personal blogs, with Internet users urging everyone to each send a copy via e-mail to the Presidential Office.

Others drafted a letter in English and called on Internet users to send it to international media outlets such as the BBC and CNN, as well as the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“Please save Taiwan! Many villages in southern Taiwan are still waiting for rescue while our president Ma is still hesitating, even refusing foreign help provided by rescue teams for reasons we don’t understand,” the letter in English said. “We hear so much SOS from the villages in the mountains but couldn’t do anything. They have no food, no water, no electricity, all transportation shut down, and phones can’t work so there’s no communication for already 6 days!”

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