Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers on the Transportation Committee yesterday accused Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Chu (陳菊) and China Pacific Catering Services chairwoman Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) of belittling the Legislative Yuan for not appearing at the committee’s meeting to answer questions over the cigarette-smuggling scandal implicating Presidential Office bodyguards.
Chen and Yeh were also absent at Monday’s meeting of the Finance Committee, which had also invited government officials linked to the scandal to respond to questions from lawmakers.
KMT Legislator Jennifer Tung (童惠珍), who presided over the Transportation Committee meeting, condemned Chen and Yeh for their absence.
“Based on Article No.67 of the Constitution, we have the right to invite personnel related to the cigarette-smuggling scandal to come to the Legislative Yuan and respond to questions about it. The Presidential Office’s Department of Security Affairs apparently has a major problem, so should not the secretary-general of the Presidential Office explain herself? She has shown apparent contempt for the legislature and this committee. I strongly condemned the pair’s actions,” Tung said.
Members of the committee would consider visiting China Airlines and China Pacific Catering Services if Yeh continues to skip the meeting, Tung said.
New Power Party Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) exposed the scandal in July, accusing National Security Bureau officials of attempting to smuggle more than 10,000 cartons of duty-free cigarettes upon the return of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her delegation from a state visit to Caribbean allies. The cigarettes had been stored at China Pacific Catering Services’ warehouse at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
Tung said she was dissatisfied with the report submitted by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), which was the same one it presented to the Finance Committee on Monday.
However, Democratic Progressive Party Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said that there was one version of the truth, so if what the ministry said on Monday was the truth, then what it said yesterday was also truth.
Tung and Yeh Yi-jin then bickered over the report for about five minutes before the committee began its question-and-answer session.
KMT lawmakers Chen Hsueh-sheng (陳雪生) and Alicia Wang (王育敏) asked why Yeh Chu-lan did not have to attend yesterday’s meeting when Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) and China Airlines (CAL) chairman Hsieh Shih-chien (謝世謙) were obligated to.
Did Yeh Chu-lan’s absence mean that neither the ministry nor CAL could do anything to control her, even though China Pacific Catering is a CAL subsidiary, Wang asked.
DPP lawmakers vetoed a resolution proposed by Tung and other KMT lawmakers that would have required CAL to submit a new list within two weeks of CAL managers who should be held to account in the scandal.
Yeh Yi-jin said that she voted against the resolution because it misrepresented the government’s response, as the Presidential Office and CAL have taken the scandal very seriously, and Hsieh did not pass the buck to the airline’s ground staff.
Minister Lin has not been soft on CAL either, she said.
People First Party Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said that scandals like the cigarette-smuggling incident would continue to occur as long as the government remained CAL’s largest shareholder.
“The fundamental question one has to ask is that why the airline’s staff members were so willing to be complicit in illegal requests from national security officials. Government agencies together own about 50 percent of the airline. Now it is time to consider turning CAL into an entirely private company,” Lee said.
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