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'Negligent' ex-envoy to Singapore defends actions

2012/07/16 22:34:34

Taipei, July 16 (CNA) Vice Foreign Minister Vanessa Shih defended on Monday her performance as Taiwan's representative to Singapore after the Control Yuan found fault with her performance during her time in the post.

Citing anonymous sources, multiple local media outlets reported that after months of investigation, the Control Yuan found Shih to be"seriously negligent" and suggested that she did not handle her overall duties well, affecting bilateral relations.

The Control Yuan also said the head of the political section of Taiwan's office in Singapore committed a "gross violation of the law" by refusing to cooperate in the investigation, the reports said.

In a statement issued Monday, the Control Yuan said the investigation report has been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Cabinet and calls for the punishment of negligent officials.

It also noted that the case has yet to be closed because the Control Yuan is now waiting for the Cabinet's response.

The media had reported that in view of the sensitive nature of Taiwan-Singapore relations, the investigative report was "closed secretly" rather than being made public.

Neither the reports nor the Control Yuan statement provided specifics on how Shih was negligent and whether it applied to a single incident or to her general performance.

But the diplomat said Monday at a press conference that she was "only" asked by the Control Yuan to reflect on her handling of a conference on the Xinhai Revolution co-hosted by Taiwan and Singapore in the city state last year.

She said the three co-hosts -- the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall in Singapore, National University of Singapore, and the Taipei-based National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall -- agreed to treat the conference as a "closed-door" academic gathering.

That meant that government officials, including officials with Taiwan's representative office in Singapore, were not invited, she said.

A Control Yuan member found out, however, that no Taiwanese officials attended the large-scale conference and thought it inappropriate, she said.

"We explained the background to the Control Yuan members (during the investigation)," but they may not have found it acceptable, she said.

"We respect their opinion."

The investigative report has been sent to Foreign Minister Timothy Yang, Shih said.

Yang defended Shih's performance in Singapore from 2009 to 2011 and backed her version of events related to the conference, saying that Taiwanese government officials were not invited because of Singapore's desire for it to be purely an academic seminar.

As for the "violations" by an unnamed official, Yang said it must have been because the official held back when interviewed by the Control Yuan, and he pledged to rebuke the individual.

On questions about Shih's performance during her stint in Singapore, Yang said they are "unfair."

"No one knows better than me about the performance of overseas offices and Shih," Yang said, noting that during her time there, bilateral relations between Taiwan and Singapore were upgraded.

He noted that Shih helped arrange a visit to Taiwan by Singaporean statesman Lee Kuan Yew last year, the first in nine years, and also contributed to several Singaporean companies listing on in Taiwan's stock exchange or over-the-counter market.

Yang also praised Shih for the start of talks on a free trade deal with Singapore.

Shih, who was sworn in as the deputy foreign minister in early July, returned to Taiwan from Singapore earlier this year amid rumors that she offended the Singapore government by making contact with the country's opposition party and displaying Taiwan's national flag at an event.

She has denied such reports, saying she was summoned by Yang to take on a domestic assignment.

The Control Yuan is the branch of government in Taiwan responsible for investigating and censuring illegal or improper behavior by public officials, civil servants, or government agencies.

(By Elaine Hou, Lilian Wu and Emmanuelle Tzeng)