Thu, Aug 07, 2014 - Page 3 News List

KAOHSIUNG DISASTER: Activists, residents call on premier to step down

BACKLASH:Citizen of the Earth’s executive director said the administration is trying to shrug off its responsibilities, so the premier is not needed

By Sean Lin and Tsao Po-yan  /  Staff reporters, with CNA

Environmental activists and others protest in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday against the central government’s decision not to draft special legislation to assist to victims of last week’s gas pipeline explosions in Greater Kaohsiung.

Photo: CNA

Environmental activists and dozens of Greater Kaohsiung residents yesterday rallied outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei to protest against Premier Jiang Yi-huah’s (江宜樺) remarks on Monday on the government’s plans to address the damage caused by the Greater Kaohsiung gas pipeline explosions and demanding that the premier and Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) step down.

Citizen of the Earth executive director Lee Ken-cheng (李根政) told a press conference that the central government’s attitude toward people affected by the blasts shows that it has not reflected upon the mistakes caused by its flawed policies covering the petrochemical industry dating back to more than half a century ago.

Those failed policies were a major contributor to the accident, he said.

“The central government installed the underground pipelines. It has remained their governing authority throughout all these years, but when an accident happens, it shirks all its responsibilities,” he said.

The premier on Monday said there was no need for a special provision bill, financial assistance through a special budget allocation and a dedicated agency to administrate post-disaster relief and reconstruction for Kaohsiung.

On Tuesday he reiterated his opposition in response to requests for special action by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, and said that the government would establish a 10-member panel of pipeline specialists and establish a national pipeline database instead.

“We are here to tell Jiang Yi-huah and Chang Chia-juch: Since you don’t want any responsibilities, we do not want you to take any, either. We want you to step down,” Lee said.

The group also demanded that the Executive Yuan allocate funds for Kaohsiung relief efforts and provide a credible timetable for its pledge to map the nation’s underground pipeline network.

However, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) told reporters yesterday that he had told DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) and other DPP legislators who had hoped to negotiate with Jiang about post-disaster plans that the central government would allocate funds to cover the city’s compensation and reconstruction costs.

Wang said that Jiang had told him that the impact of the pipeline explosions was as massive as the 921 Earthquake or Typhoon Morakot, so a special budget might not be necessary.

“The premier said the government would draw on its disaster reserve fund, secondary reserve fund for emergency purposes and general budget to fund the relief work,” Wang said.

Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) said the Executive Yuan declined the DPP legislators’ requests to draft a special provision bill and set up a dedicated agency to monitor relief work because it believes existing laws and regulations are sufficient.

While the Executive Yuan plans to put together a panel of specialists to tackle pipeline-related issues and set up a database for pipeline networks, it would leave the decision of whether to archive and manage the pipelines to the panel, he said.

Meanwhile, Executive Yuan Secretary-General Lee Shu-chuan (李四川) reportedly told yesterday’s Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting that the disaster reserve fund allocated to Greater Kaohsiung this year totals about NT$1.94 billion (US$64.6 million), of which NT$190 million has been spent, leaving about NT$1.7 billion.

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