KMT calls on Tsai to apologize, Su to resign over deadly train crash

04/05/2021 05:27 PM
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The KMT press conference. CNA photo April 5, 2021
The KMT press conference. CNA photo April 5, 2021

Taipei, April 5 (CNA) Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) on Monday called on President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to apologize to the public and for Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) to step down, to take responsibility for a deadly train crash last Friday in which at least 50 people died and 202 were injured.

At a press conference, KMT secretary-general Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) said negligence on the part of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government is to blame for the latest express train accident as the DPP government learned nothing from the last train incident involving state-owned Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) in 2018.

A Puyuma Express train derailed in Yilan County on Oct. 21, 2018 resulting in 18 fatalities and nearly 300 injuries. An investigation later showed that the accident was caused by speeding and technical malfunctions on the train.

At that time, President Tsai and the Executive Yuan established a cabinet-level ad hoc committee, headed by then-Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德), to review TRA's safety measures and prevent the occurrence of a similar tragedy, according to Cheng.

However, after Lai was replaced as premier by Su in January 2019, the committee was wound down, Cheng said.

The committee produced a report containing proposals for the TRA to improve train safety, but it was never approved by the Executive Yuan headed by Su, she added.

The KMT, therefore, called on Tsai to apologize to the nation and for Su and Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), to take responsibility for the train accident last week and resign, she said.

Lin has tendered his resignation but it has so far not been approved by Su.

Speaking at the same press event, KMT Legislator Hung Meng-kai (洪孟楷) said the party plans to propose the formation of a special investigative committee during a legislative session Wednesday.

The committee will be tasked with looking into TRA's contract with Yi Hsiang Industry Co. (義祥工業社) to find if there are any irregularities and whether the company has followed safety regulations in its work for TRA, Hung said.

The TRA should thoroughly inspect all its construction sites within a week to ensure they are following safety protocols, he added.

An initial investigation shows the train crash was caused by a crane truck belonging to Yi Hsiang Industry Co. that was operating near the site of the accident.

The truck, which was driven by Lee Yi-hsiang (李義祥), who is also the owner of Yi Hsiang Industry Co., slid down an incline onto the track, directly into the path of train because the truck's parking brake was not properly engaged, as a result of mechanical failure or human negligence, according to the results of the initial probe.

The Hualien District Court on Sunday night ordered that Lee should be detained and held incommunicado, citing fears that he could try to flee, collude with others, or destroy evidence, given the severity of the alleged crime.

In response, Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) on Monday refuted the KMT's accusations, saying that the report by the cabinet-level ad hoc committee on TRA safety improvements did not need to be approved by the Cabinet to be put into practice.

Since the report was passed by a committee meeting on Jan. 18, 2019, the TRA has made numerous changes to improve train safety in accordance with the report's proposals, he added.

The report contained 144 proposed improvements of which the TRA has so far adopted 109, according to Lo.

Prosecutors and the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board are currently investigating the circumstances of the accident and will report to the public once they have reached a conclusion, Lo said.

He called on the opposition party not to engage in political point scoring nor to speculate as to the cause of the accident before the results of the official probe are released.

(By Wang Cheng-chung, Yeh Su-ping and Joseph Yeh)

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