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Premier Liu can play significant role in reconstruction

The latest opinion polls indicate that most locals are urgently calling for a major reshuffle of the Cabinet, including the stepping down of Premier Liu Chao-shiuan, to take responsibility for the government's gross mismanagement of the disaster brought about by Typhoon Morakot.

However, there are also voices, although comparatively weaker, asserting that dereliction on the part of Liu was not so serious as to oblige him to resign. President Ma Ying-jeou appears to share this view as demonstrated by his public support for Liu. The result is that the president is being accused of lacking political wisdom and resolve to make crucial decisions at the crucial moment.

True, the public sentiment against Ma and the Cabinet headed by Liu in particular, is currently running high with all kinds of suggestions and demands. However, extreme calm and prudence must be exercised by the highest authority at this juncture in order to pull this nation through the present crisis.

First, one must realize that, according to Taiwan's political tradition, the president has the highest authority with the power to appoint and remove important officials of his administration. Hence, as long as Ma remains in the presidency, the entire Cabinet, no matter who is the premier, largely reflects his philosophy in policy and personnel management. In other words, if people indeed want a genuinely new Cabinet to establish a completely new order, Ma must go first.

Many advise the president to change his leadership style by trying to recruit talent different from and superior to him so that he may have access to fresh and better ideas in administering state affairs. But a fundamental change of a person's personality is difficult for any politician to achieve, let alone Ma, who is well known for his stubbornness, as most of the highly educated and successful people are.

Granted that he reluctantly agrees to appoint a premier with a brilliant mind and new ideas different from his, do we want to see the president and the premier at odds with each other all the time, bringing the government to a virtual standstill?

Finally, one would like to ask: Is Premier Liu really unfit for his present position? His intelligence and caliber have been fully demonstrated by his steady rise through the ranks of bureaucracy. In fact, his performance was widely acclaimed when he served as vice premier responsible for the reconstruction work in Taiwan during the post-921 earthquake period. Liu has the potential to be a competent premier.

There is no denying that these days the public is extremely dissatisfied with the government's handling of the typhoon and its aftermath. But, to be fair to all those concerned, the terrible mess in the wake of the hurricane was largely caused by sluggard negligence on the part of relevant officials at all levels of the government and a long-standing perfunctory bureaucratic mentality.

Of course, there was also an element of bad luck in terms of the timing of their misbehavior and the inexplicable stupidity of a series of misstatements. But, even so, the devotion of most of these officials and their ability to serve their country well should not be overlooked.

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