Cabinet shuffle begins in typhoon's wake

The Associated PressSeptember 8, 2009 

  • Typhoon Morakot, which dumped 3 feet of rain in some locations, triggered massive flooding and mudslides in and around some 40 villages in southern Taiwan.

    Critics blamed the heavy casualties on government inefficiency, saying authorities should have ordered residents in the area to evacuate their homes long before the storm hit. The government has also come under criticism for rejecting initial offers of foreign aid and for failing to immediately deploy troops to help with rescue operations.

— Taiwan's premier resigned Monday amid criticism of the government's slow response to the most devastating storm to hit the island in 50 years, and the president immediately named a senior official from the ruling party to replace him.

Liu Chao-shiuan said he was leaving office because his Cabinet had completed the initial stage of rehabilitation work after Typhoon Morakot slammed into the island Aug. 8-9 and left an estimated 670 people dead.

"I have completed my duties at this phase," said Liu, who has held his post since Ma Ying-jeou became president in May 2008.

Liu's move sets the stage for the entire Cabinet to resign. Liu said that would happen Thursday.

Ma named Nationalist Party Secretary General Wu Den-yih, 61, to replace Liu.

Wu is a veteran lawmaker with a reputation as a skilled political maneuverer. He previously served eight years as mayor of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city, and before that was chief executive of Nantou county, also in the south of the island.

Opinion polls in Morakot's wake showed support for Ma and Liu plunging to below 20 percent -- a drop of 20-30 points in only a matter of months. Even Ma's Nationalist allies demanded a Cabinet reshuffle, acknowledging overwhelming public unease with the government.

Liu said Monday that most of the 7,000 people who lost their homes in the storm have been resettled at military camps and other shelters.

Ma had stood firmly by Liu's side despite continuing criticism that the Cabinet failed to implement many of its policies promptly and efficiently.

But the storm raised serious questions about Ma's leadership and his apparent failure to name more capable Cabinet members.

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