Yao to sue paper over alleged coast guard junket

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

The head of the Examination Yuan accused by a local newspaper of vacationing with his legislator wife on coast guard vessels threatened to sue yesterday. Yao Chia-wen, who oversees the promotion exams of all civil servants, said the trip on board the coast guard cutters which had been arranged by his wife, Chou Ching-yu, was legal. He threatened to sue the Apple Daily that carried a front-page story accusing the couple of using the coast guard resources for personal purposes. The paper revealed that the Yao couple invited the staff of the legislator’s office to a tour to Taitung, where they boarded the coast guard boats, taking them to outlying Green Island on Aug. 6. The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said the tour arranged by its eastern Taiwan division was a “routine” in line with a public relations program aiming to let the people better understand the patrolling operations. It said the program was launched in January, but admitted that it was called off on Aug. 5 — a day before the Yao trip — because of stepped up security measures to hunt for the most wanted alleged kidnapper, Chang Hsi-ming. Despite the cancellation of the program, the administration said applications for such tours currently under review could still be approved. Denying any misuse of government resources, Yao said he was not aware of the coast guard’s hunt for the notorious criminal, who made headlines recently for escaping from a police siege after a fierce shootout.

Upon returning to the Fukang Harbor in Taitung, Yao said that his wife’s office paid for the entire tour — of which Taitung was only one of the stops — except for the use of the coast guard patrol boat which he said was part of the public relations program. He argued that many local journalists and legislators have been invited by the coast guard to such trips. More than 5,000 people have taken part in the program, Yao said, maintaining that he only came to keep his wife company on the trip.

Chou said that every year her aides in the Legislature and staff of the office in her constituency take a vacation together.

Because the CGA happened to have the program, they arranged the trip entirely on their own expenses. Her aides were cited as saying the coast guard boat ride was not a “sightseeing trip” and the group returned to Taitung from the Green Island on a civilian vessel. But the opposition camp demanded that the watchdog Control Yuan open an investigation into Yao’s alleged abuse of government resources. The United Evening News revealed that it is not the first time that Yao has been accused of misusing coast guard vessels.

Kuomintang Legislator John Chang in 2002 alleged that Yao took his Changhua townsfolk to a trip on three coast guard ships. Legislator Ker Chien-ming, whip of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party caucus, said he would need to take a closer look into the case before making any comments. The CGA maintained that the program was initiated to help the general public learn more about its operations and promote marine ecology and environmental protection.

The program, originally scheduled to last until the end of the year, would have welcomed applicants from schools, civic groups and elected officials, the CGA said.