Wed, Oct 14, 2009 - Page 3 News List

No staffers to be punished over aid rejection: MOFA

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) appears to be off the hook after the ministry’s internal review committee last Tuesday decided that no administrative staff should be held accountable for MOFA’s initial refusal of foreign aid in the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot.

Responding to a Taipei Times question at the ministry’s regular press briefing yesterday, Chen, who was among the short list of names sent to the review committee, said the committee had reached a consensus that because former minister of foreign affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) and his former deputy, Andrew Hsia (夏立言), had taken “responsibility” by stepping down, “the committee feels such a gesture was sufficient” and that no administrative staff should be punished,” he said.

CRITICISM

MOFA came in for heavy criticism in early August for releasing a cable instructing overseas missions to reject all offers of foreign aid except cash to help with Typhoon Morakot relief efforts.

Morakot hit southern Taiwan in the first weekend of August, killing more than 700 people and wiping out several villages. It is deemed the worst natural disaster in Taiwan in five decades.

REFUSAL

However, instead of accepting offers of foreign assistance such as search and rescue teams, MOFA asked all its overseas embassies and representative offices on Aug. 10 — two days after the typhoon’s initial landfall — to “kindly refuse” all aid offers but cash. The cable was composed by Chen’s department, approved by Chen and later signed off by a higher-ranking official, widely speculated to be David Lin (林永樂), a vice minister.

The cable has been singled out as one of the key reasons foreign assistance did not promptly arrive in Taiwan.

Hsia, who was the acting minister during the fiasco, later apologized for the oversight and said the cable should have read “temporarily” refuse.

Hsia and Ou were among a string of Cabinet members booted out in a reshuffle following public criticism of the government’s slow response to the typhoon, but the pair has also been seen as scapegoats for errors made by senior officials.

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