The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) must take full responsibility for his missteps in dealing with Typhoon Morakot and should immediately launch a Cabinet reshuffle in order to improve relief efforts.
“We can tell he offered a sincere apology but we are not sure what he apologized for,” said DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), referring to a press conference Ma held yesterday afternoon.
Tsai said the two-hour press conference with local and foreign journalists failed to restore public confidence and did not map out a concrete plan for the ongoing relief work.
The biggest problem of the administration in the past week, she said, is a “leadership and command system malfunction,” adding that unless a new team is named right away, the same problems will reoccur.
“At the moment, the plan to recall or to topple the Cabinet initiated by the DPP is not the most effective option. The best solution is for this president to immediately reshuffle the Cabinet,” Tsai told reporters.
She added that the DPP did not mind if the government waited until early next month — the timetable set out by Ma — to issue demerits to responsible officials, but stressed that a Cabinet reshuffle must happen right away.
The DPP does not rule out working with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in pressuring Ma to restructure his Cabinet now that the KMT might have its own political considerations, she said.
Lawmakers from the KMT also called for a major Cabinet reshuffle.
KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said Central Emergency Operations Center Commander Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) and chiefs of the National Fire Agency, the Ministry of National Defense, the Water Resources Agency and the Council of Agriculture should all be replaced.
Lo urged Ma to choose People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to be the next premier, saying that Soong’s experience as former Taiwan governor made him the best candidate to assume premiership.
Lin Huo-wang (林火旺), national advisor to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), also suggested Ma reshuffle the Cabinet because of its poor performance in the rescue operation.
Lin made the remarks after he described the Cabinet as a “cold-blooded government” on TVBS’ political talk show, 2100 Public Talk, on Monday night.
“On the night of August 11, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) went to have his hair dyed,” Lin said on the show. “Dyeing hair is a time-consuming job. [Liu] was also seen talking cheerfully on phone ... People were dying. If this government feels numb to that, Mr Ma will have to take responsibility for not replacing [the premier], who is not the right person for the job.”
Lin said Executive Yuan Secretary-General Hsueh Hsiang-chuan (薛香川) had dinner at the five-star Howard Hotel on Aug. 9.
He also said that when Minister of the Interior Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) asked Vice Premier Paul Chiu (邱正雄) on Aug. 9 over the phone whether the army should be mobilized, Chiu asked Liao: Is the situation that serious?”
“If [Ma] continues to let these officials keep their positions, he is committing a sin,” Lin said.
Hsueh called in to the show and rebutted the allegations. He first denied he went to the hotel on Aug. 9, and when Lin repeatedly asked him when he had gone to the hotel, Hsueh said: “It was on Aug. 8.”
“I went to Kaohsiung by the first train the next day … Besides, [August 8] was Father’s Day,” Hsueh said. “It’s Father’s Day. We left the hotel right away after the dinner. Come on. Was it that unreasonable that we had dinner out on Father’s Day?”
Liu’s office declined to comment on Lin’s remarks yesterday, but the office’s Ting Nai-chi (丁乃琪) was quoted by the Chinese-language **China Times** yesterday as saying: “Wasn’t [he] allowed to have his hair cut? What kind of world is this?”
Chiu’s office, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that Lin’s allegation was not true.
At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Ma came to Liu’s defense and said it was a regular appointment for a haircut.
Liu was not present at the press conference.
Chiu, who sat next to Ma, dismissed the accusations concerning him as “completely false,” adding that he has been working hard at the disaster response center since the typhoon struck and that he didn’t even have time for breakfast yesterday.
Ma told the press conference that he and Liu had come to an agreement that punishments would not be meted out until early next month because the first priority was disaster relief and they did not want to damage morale during the relief effort.
Ma said the government was determined to find out why the public thought the government had reacted too slowly to the emergency. If any government official was found to have made careless mistakes, they should take the political and administrative responsibility, he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KO SHU-LING AND FLORA WANG
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