The Presidential Office urged the public to refrain from speculating on a possible Cabinet reshuffle yesterday, saying relief and reconstruction efforts were more important.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had made it clear that he and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) would finalize the penalties for officials responsible for the devastation caused by Typhoon Morakot and decide whether to replace any Cabinet members early next month.
The public should therefore pay more attention to the resettlement and reconstruction program, Wang said, when asked about reports that Ma was likely to retain Liu, while sacking just a few Cabinet officials.
The Chinese-language United Daily News reported that Ma would recruit local chiefs into the Cabinet, including Taoyuan County Commissioner Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Hsinchu Mayor Lin Junq-tzer (林政則).
Wang also said it was pointless for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to engage in “political maneuvering,” after it criticized Ma for not visiting disaster areas by car to gain first-hand knowledge of treacherous road conditions. He also urged the DPP to join forces with the Chinese Nationlist Party (KMT) in reconstruction work.
Wang said Ma had to travel by helicopter so he could visit as many disaster areas as possible, while apologizing if any flooding victims had been inconvenienced.
During a visit to a temporary shelter at Sinfa Community (新發) in Kaohsiung County on Saturday, several people complained about the clouds of dust and rocks kicked up by Ma’s helicopter. At one point, kitchen crews used a lid to block the rocks.
Ma shook hands, hugged and patted several community residents on the back, but few people could hear what he said over the sound of the idling helicopter.
Meanwhile, Ma issued a certificate to the family of helicopter copilot Wang Tsung-li (王宗立) commending him for his heroic deeds.
Wang was one of three crewmembers killed when their UH-1H helicopter crashed in the Yila Valley in Wutai Township (霧台), Pingtung County, during relief operations.
Liu and Minister of the Interior Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) also awarded medals to Wang in recognition of his contribution, while Liao and Vice Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) placed a national flag on his coffin.
Wang’s ashes will be placed in the Martyrs’ Shrine on Sept. 3.
Ma also visited six soldiers at the Kaohsiung Armed Forces General Hospital yesterday afternoon. The six are being treated for injuries or other ailments suffered while helping in the disaster relief work.
The president also paid his respects to two police officers in Taitung County who are believed to have been killed after their patrol car was washed away by flash floods on Aug. 8.
Chiang Wen-hsiang (江文祥) and Hsu Chin-tzu’s (?? vehicle was discovered under mud, but their bodies have yet to be found.
Hugging Chiang’s mother, Ma took out his handkerchief to wipe away her tears and patted her on the shoulder.
He also visited the family of Li Yu-ying (李昱穎) to apologize for the “improper” remarks he made when they asked him to help look for their missing father. Ma was strongly criticized for responding to their pleas by saying: “I didn’t know you were looking for me” and “I have come, haven’t I?”
Meanwhile, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) apologized yesterday for staying in a luxury hotel in Kaohsiung after she toured disaster areas in southern Taiwan.