Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) led his year-old Cabinet in a mass resignation yesterday and turned down an opportunity to continue serving the current administration, opting instead to promote cultural and social movements for coexistence and reconciliation in Taiwan.
After leading his Cabinet to resign, Hsieh met with the president and "politely declined" Chen's repeated invitations to become presidential secretary-general.
Unable to persuade Hsieh to stay on, the president announced that Foreign Minister Mark Chen (陳唐山) would take over as presidential secretary-general, with incumbent Ma Yung-cheng and Executive Yuan Secretary-General Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) serving as his deputies.
Hsieh resigned as premier last Tuesday over policy differences with the president and to take partial responsibility for the Democratic Progressive Party's poor showing in last December 3's local elections.
He will be replaced by former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), whose Cabinet will be sworn in tomorrow.
In remarks made after yesterday's Cabinet meeting, Hsieh reaffirmed his belief in the concept of coexistence and reconciliation.
"In the face of cutthroat political struggle, ethnic division and the loss of mutual trust, we should replace 'zero-sum' thinking with coexistence and replace antagonism with cooperation," he said, declaring that only such an effort can make it possible for local society to have reconciliation and unity.
The premier stated that he did not believe his concepts of coexistence and detente had failed, but acknowledged that any politician who tried to bridge "the latent antagonism between two national identities in civil society" would face "misunderstandings, doubts, suppression and slander," which would test his or her "courage, patience and judgment."
Hsieh said that there had already been a positive response in society to his promotion of "coexistence and reconciliation" despite hostility from the People's Republic of China and domestic tension.
"If we can still promote coexistence and reconciliation in Taiwan while facing such a strong enemy and a difficult environment and advance civilization and upgrade humanity, I believe that this can create a Taiwan miracle and be the most important contribution to human civilization by Taiwan's people," Hsieh declared.
The outgoing premier said he was most satisfied with his Cabinet's economic performance, touting it as "maintaining stable economic development while simultaneously promoting social equity and humanism and environmental sustainability and improving the quality of economic development."
Noting the solid economic growth and low unemployment rate achieved during his term in office, Hsieh also pointed to other specific achievements, including establishing new nationwide labor pension system; winning legislative passage of a new minimum income tax system; maintaining stable energy prices despite soaring world crude oil prices; completing a comprehensive revision of the national health insurance act - which still needs legislative approval; and the drafting of a new national pension system.
Hsieh said that the momentum achieved would carry over to the first half of 2006 in creating a stable economic environment.
In his remarks, Hsieh clearly expressed the areas where he and
the president did not see eye to eye.
Hsieh advocated reconsidering the central government budget approved by the opposition-controlled Legislature, which sliced NT$36.5 billion from the government's proposed budget and froze another NT$246 billion, marking the largest adjustment of a central government budget in a decade.
"I truly felt that we needed to express our position and that we need strength to promote coexistence," said Hsieh, who also expressed confidence that the veto would pass and lead to a "new legislative environment."
"Unfortunately, it did not receive support," said Hsieh, referring to the refusal of the president to apply for a reconsideration.
Besides renewing a plea for "rational dialogue" in the Legislature, Hsieh also stated that cross-strait policy between Taiwan and the PRC "should be founded on Taiwan's long-term interests" and not "short-term setbacks" in cross-strait or international interaction.
"Under the condition of a native government, being liberal or tight (toward China) is not necessarily related to whether we have sovereignty," Hsieh said. "I have also believed that the policies of a native government that upholds Taiwan identity should reasonably have the support of over 75 percent of the people, but it appears that is not the case now," the former Kaohsiung City mayor stated.
The outgoing premier said that cross-strait policy would be based on "long-term planning" and emphasized that "so long as Taiwan continues to be progressive and prosperous, the people will be on our side. "
The premier also urged the DPP government under President Chen to "be humble and listen to the people's voices" especially in the wake of the governing party's severe setback in local elections last December 3.
"Therefore, I have decided to return to the civic sector," the premier announced.
The outgoing premier stated that he would "promote culture and social movements through writing and lecturing" and declared that he was always an "optimist" and was "full of confidence in the land and people of Taiwan."