TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff
A group of opposition lawmakers yesterday stalled the extraordinary legislative session because a bill they were lobbying for was not put on the agenda of the two-week special session. Lawmakers Liu Cheng-hung, Tseng Tsai Mei-tso, Chang Tsai Mei, Chiu Chin-chun, and Liao Wan-ru from the Kuomintang (KMT) temporarily took over the podium to protest against the exclusion of the farmers’ retirement bill.
Premier Yu Shyi-kun, who was scheduled to give a report on the budgets for the ten major public infrastructure projects and the July 2 flood relief, was forced to sit back due to the boycott.
Yu urged the legislature to resume the meeting as soon as possible to approve the budgets. He added that the government will not cut the NT$500 billion budget for the public infrastructure projects, which is aimed at boosting the economy, living standards and reducing unemployment rates. However, the much-hyped plan to build a Guggenheim Museum branch in Taichung was not included on major public infrastructure project.
Yu explained during the afternoon session that the Guggenheim plan was left out due to a requirement imposed by the Legislature when it hammered out a special legislation stipulating the investment for public constructions in June.
According to the special legislation, the cost assessment must be conducted for an alternative or back-up proposal to a construction plan but the Taichung City Government has yet to fulfill that requirement, Yu said. The same reason applied to the exclusion of the Taichung MRT project and the Su-Hua Highway from the Cabinet’s budget package, he added. Taichung Mayor Jason Hu, meanwhile, insisted that there is no need to come up with an alternative plan for a Guggenheim branch construction. “What is an alternative? Guggenheim is Guggenheim, can we replace it with the British Museum? Now is the time to just to it and leave all the excuses behind,” Hu told reporters.
“I hope the Cabinet will not let down the residents in Taichung, who may feel cheated because President Chen Shui-bian can’t fulfill his campaign promises.”
Sharing Hu’s view, KMT lawmaker Lu Shiou-yen from Taichung accused the government of discriminating against the city because its mayor is from the KMT. She claimed that Chiayi City Government was not asked to submit a cost assessment for an alternative plan to a National Palace Museum branch under construction there because it is run by a Democratic Progressive Party chief.
Also, some lawmakers from the East Coast voiced their anger at the government’s decision to halt the construction of a highway there due to budget issues and environmental concerns. The first day of the extraordinary session was nearly cut short because not enough lawmakers showing up for the meeting. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng had to call for a break in order to give time for the caucuses to round up enough attendees. The meeting was resumed at 1005 a.m. and a vote held ten minutes later finalized the agenda of the extra session, with 84 out of 85 voted yes.
The legislature is expected to review some 20 bills in the two-week extra session which began yesterday.
The bills cover constitutional reforms to halve the legislative seats, budgets for major public infrastructure projects, the creation of an independent committee to investigate the March 19 shooting and proposed regulation on the funeral industry.