Chao Shou-po (趙守博), national policy adviser to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), said Ma’s refusal to enact emergency decrees following the destruction caused by Typhoon Morakot was the main factor in recent public discontent.
“Ma apologized [for the government’s handlings of the emergency], but his refusal to admit that he did something wrong is not acceptable to the public,” Chao said.
Chao was the second of Ma’s national policy advisers to publicly criticize the government’s response to Typhoon Morakot.
On Monday, adviser Lin Huo-wang (林火旺) openly criticized the Cabinet’s slow response to Morakot and revealed that Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) had had his hair dyed on Aug. 11 when the Cabinet should have been focusing on rescue efforts and relief operations amid severe flooding and massive landslides.
Chao said he had no choice but to speak out because Ma was not taking his suggestions seriously.
Chao said he disagreed with Ma’s position that the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act (災害防救法) was sufficient to deal with the situation and that it was unnecessary to declare an emergency.
The Act, Chao said, only stipulates the regulations for the Central Emergency Operation Center’s response to a disaster: That the commander of the center is entitled to call up skilled personnel to help with disaster relief, as well as to demarcate areas and issue temporary passes to control access to these areas, or mandatory evacuation order to residents in those areas.
The Act, however, does not grant exemptions from the restrictions imposed by the Public Debt Act (公共債務法), the Budget Act (預算法), the State-owned Property Act (國有財產法) and the Land Act (土地法), which are included in emergency decrees, Chao said.
If Ma had declared a state of emergency, it would have sent a signal that the government was fully prepared to do what was necessary to help the public, to address “extreme times with extreme measure.”
“If the public loses confidence in the government at the beginning of a disaster, how could the government regain that trust during the reconstructions phase?” Chao said.
Chao said that Liu’s claim that the government’s response to the typhoon disaster was quicker than during the 921 Earthquake was disingenuous.
Chao, who was provisional governor in 1999, said he was asked by then-premier Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) to go to the hard-hit areas in Puli Township (埔里), Nantou County, 10 minutes after the earthquake and immediately called then-defense minister Tang Fei (唐飛) seeking help from the armed forces, which joined relief efforts immediately.
“Comparisons between government reactions to the two emergencies simply cannot be made,” he said.
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