Former Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) yesterday denied that he was asked to step down over remarks he made about Advanced Semiconductor Engineering’s (ASE) water pollution, adding that his statements had been twisted by both politicians and the media.
Shen was one of the six ministers replaced in Wednesday’s Cabinet shuffle.
He made a farewell speech at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting at the Executive Yuan, touching on the speculation over his departure.
“Being a minister is an honor and a great opportunity to serve the country… If your supervisor offers you a job, you make sacrifices and work hard to accomplish the tasks entrusted to you. If he does not offer you a job, you can be grateful as well,” Shen said.
“Your supervisor needs not explain in detail why he needs to replace certain ministers if he believes that it is necessary to facilitate the enforcement of national policies. Once you realize that what you have is kind of like a temporary position, you do your best while you still have the job and leave the job without regret,” Shen said.
He said some in the media and some politicians had colluded to distort his remarks on the pollution case for their own purposes, adding that this showed a “sickness in this society” that needs to be addressed.
He had praised the Greater Kaohsiung Government’s handling of the case and had asked the city to suspend the company’s operations and force it to forfeit all its “illegal gains,” Shen said.
He said he has also told Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) that the city needed to examine whether it had enough evidence to order the semiconductor firm to halt operations.
“I discovered from official documents that the city might have wrongfully accused the firm of illegally installing pipelines and discharging wastewater because the company had officially informed the city about those measures. It turned out that I was right and the city did not use the inaccurate charges in its written notice to the company,” he said.
However, opposition lawmakers had jumped in, holding a press conference shortly after he had given his advice to the city to accuse him of trying to protect ASE. Political commentators on talk shows accused him of giving special favors to the company, he said.
The allegations led to the media deciding that he was forced out because of the remarks, he said.
“Premier Jiang [Yi-huah] (江宜樺) did not replace me over that, because he understands perfectly how I handled the situation. The media had tried to make Chen Chu look like a hero and could not admit that they had made a mistake. They had to keep telling lies and even use my stepping down to reinforce the lies they told,” Shen said.
He said he had been told on Monday afternoon that Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) would be named to head the agency.
He also denied that he had problems communicating with environmental protection groups, adding that he had established a mechanism to allow groups with different interests to present their own experts and debate controversial issues.
Shen said he had issued 454 press releases specifically to respond to untruthful allegations against the ministry, an example that he believed every ministry should follow.
As for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮), the government should allow different political parties to nominate their own experts to review the plant’s safety, as a legislative resolution had specified, he said. People can vote in a referendum only if they are presented with accurate facts, he said.