Under pressure from lawmakers across party lines, Executive Yuan secretary-general Steven Chen (陳士魁) yesterday retracted his remark that it was “very inappropriate” of the legislature to cut the special allowance budget of the premier and key Cabinet officials.
“It is not right for an official from the executive branch of government to make such a comment on the [legislature’s] handling of an internal procedural issue. I hereby apologize to each one of you,” Chen told lawmakers at an Internal Administration Committee meeting yesterday. “I would also like to apologize for any controversy that my remarks may have triggered, as well as for the delay in the meeting.”
After stepping down from the podium, Chen approached the lawmakers and shook hands with them, ending a heated and prolonged war of words over his comments.
The dispute started on Monday when Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) — who is in charge of Aboriginal affairs — did not show up for a meeting to review the Council of Indigenous Peoples’ budget, despite an invitation from the committee.
Since the Cabinet backed Lo’s decision not to attend the meeting, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) and Pasuya Yao (姚文智), as well as Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅), tabled and approved a proposal to scrap the budget for the special funds of the premier and various Cabinet officials.
Reacting to the move, the Chinese-language United Daily News quoted Steven Chen as saying that the move was “very inappropriate” and had “severely breached the mutual trust” between the executive and legislative branches.
Under fire for his comments, Steven Chen defended himself by saying that it was not an “official” reaction, but something he said while “chatting with a good journalist friend.”
He added that his reaction was only natural, because “when you get hit, you say ‘it hurts.’”
His remarks led to further criticism from lawmakers, who said that it was highly inappropriate for an official from the executive branch to make such comments on a decision made by a legislative committee.
Steven Chen then agreed to apologize to Yao, the committee chair.
However, several DPP legislators, including Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), and Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲), were not satisfied, saying Chen should apologize to all members of the committee who made the decision collectively.
The Cabinet official refused, saying he had already apologized.
“If you think you have said something wrong, you should apologize to everyone concerned, including me,” Tuan said. “It’s not enough to apologize only to the committee chair, because you have insulted all of us on the committee.”
As the verbal clashes intensified, DDP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) intervened.
Ker and Lin urged Steven Chen to apologize, while Yao said he would not accept the apology if the Cabinet secretary-general refused to say sorry to everyone in the committee.
Under pressure from the caucus whips and the committee chair, Steven Chen eventually agreed to apologize.