Remarks by interior minister irritate locals


Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 2

Minister of the Interior Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) suffered a backlash yesterday after saying that financial support for typhoon victims was more important than making a personal visit to the disaster zone.

While accompanying Vice Premier Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) on an inspection tour on Monday of Yunlin County's Kouhu township, a farming region seriously flooded during Tropical Storm Mindulle, Su said, "What's there to see with embankments? Just give some money," attracting the ire of local residents.

Defending his comments, Su said today that actions spoke louder than words.

"I wasn't saying that embankments weren't worth taking a look at. I was simply referring to the fact that many government officials survey disaster areas without actually doing their job by providing financial assistance to the victims," Su said yesterday morning.

Su said six years of experience as Pingtung County Commissioner taught him that financial assistance could solve many problems.

"During my six years in office in Pingtung County, I came to understand that many longstanding problems could not be solved unless the central government would lend a hand to areas needing it with financial assistance," Su said.

Su also said that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) when in office had not been able to solve the problems that were besetting Yunlin residents.

"The embankments in Yunlin have been causing problems for the past four decades and the KMT government was unable to rectify this," he said.

"Right now, the most efficient way to solve this problem is to build good embankments, and that requires money," Su said. "If local problems are solved with government aid, then the sometimes unwanted visits from government officials could be turned into welcome ones."

Yunlin County is located on the central west coast, where flooding has been a regular problem for farmers over the decades.

Kouhu township has a population of 33,800 and has traditionally been a farming center with produce ranging from peanuts and sweet potatoes to garlic. Fishing is also an important industry, with many locals involved in mussel and milk fish farming.

The topography of Kouhu and the constant reorganization of irrigation networks in the area have proved challenging for farmers.