KMT boycotts premier's report on first day of legislative session

09/17/2021 10:51 PM
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CNA photo Sept. 17, 2021
CNA photo Sept. 17, 2021

Taipei, Sept. 17 (CNA) The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) boycotted much of the opening day of a new legislative session Friday, demanding that Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) apologize for the government's COVID-19 policy before presenting a report and fielding lawmaker questions.

The Legislature was scheduled to have Cabinet officials report on policy changes made in April that allowed cabin crew members of national airlines to only quarantine for three days after flying back to Taiwan.

All other arrivals have been required to quarantine for 14 days after entering Taiwan.

Shortly after the three-day quarantine policy was introduced in mid-April, two China Airline pilots who had just returned to Taiwan tested positive for the virus on April 20. Infections involving airline employees and their families then surged.

The airline cluster soon expanded in late April to include employees of the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport hotel, which is owned by the airline and had served as a quarantine hotel for the aircrew.

Beginning on May 11, domestic infections emerged in northern Taiwan and especially in Wanhua District of Taipei, which later prompted the Central Epidemic Command Center to raise the COVID-19 alert to Level 3 and impose soft lockdown nationwide.

Those cases led to more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases and 800 deaths in two months.

The government has never explained the origins of the mid-May surge in cases, but many have linked those cases to the smaller China Airlines and Novotel outbreaks in late April.

The KMT has argued that the three-day quarantine policy resulted in the mid-May surge, and demanded that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government make an apology to the country's people.

The government has defended its decision to loosen the quarantine requirements for crew members and denied a connection between the policy and domestic infections.

On Friday morning, shortly before Su could begin his presentation, the KMT lawmakers occupied the Legislative Yuan podium with cardboards printed with protest slogans.

Meanwhile, DPP lawmakers gathered together around Su and other Cabinet officials while showing no sign of engaging with their opposition colleagues.

Legislative Speaker You Si-Kun (游錫堃) then called a recess, which lasted throughout the rest of the day until the meeting ended at 6 p.m.

Speaking with reporters on the decision to boycott the meeting, KMT Legislator Chen Yu-jen (陳玉珍) said her party did not wish to prevent the Cabinet's briefing, but it felt it was imperative that the premier apologize for the administration's COVID-19 missteps first.

On the other hand, DPP Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) criticized the KMT for boycotting Su's presentation that was put on the agenda at the KMT's request. He called on opposition party lawmakers not to disrupt other meetings next week.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (left, in orange mask) sits while waiting to make his report. CNA photo Sept. 17, 2021
Premier Su Tseng-chang (left, in orange mask) sits while waiting to make his report. CNA photo Sept. 17, 2021

Su and the Cabinet officials will not deliver their report on another date unless a party caucus proposes it again, and the proposal is approved by other parties.

Before the disruption occurred, however, lawmakers still managed to approve two resolutions proposed by the KMT and DPP, respectively, which both called on the Cabinet to make an effort to ensure faster delivery of COVID-19 vaccines purchased by the government.

(By Wang Yang-yu, Wang Cheng-jung and Teng Pei-ju)

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