Ma cancels Dragon Boat participation

Ma cancels Dragon Boat participation

President Ma Ying-jeou has canceled a plan to participate in this year's Dragon Boat races, bowing to mounting pressure that he stop having fun in festive events while people in central and southern Taiwan have been hit hard by heavy rains and flooding.

His spokesman Wang Yu-chi said yesterday that the president could feel the pain of the people, and therefore decided to cancel the Dragon Boat plan to show his concern for the people.

Ma has come under strong pressure from critics from both the ruling and opposition camps, as well as ordinary people, over his plan to take part in the traditional race in Taipei to mark the Dragon Boat Festival Sunday.

The critics have stressed that Ma was creating the impression that he was having fun with the people in Taipei while ignoring the ordeals of others in central and southern areas. The president has been faulted for failing to inspect the disaster areas, where farmers have been hit hard by the torrential rains and flooding that have seriously damaged their crops.

The criticism has been further fueled by the fact that his participation in the boat race would have required a large security force to maintain his safety on that day, which the critics say would have been a serious waste of resources. But his spokesman maintained that the cancellation had nothing to do with the criticism over security measures, which Wang said will be necessary wherever the president goes. Wang said it was not yet decided whether Ma would visit the disaster areas, as the Presidential Office and the Cabinet were still discussing the matter.

Legislator Tsai Huang-liang from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party said Ma has made a right decision although it has come a bit late. Tsai said he has called on Ma over the past few days to take into consideration the people's suffering amid mounting inflationary pressure. He said he hopes Ma can really understand the people's pain and refrain from taking part in meaningless celebrations.

Legislator Chang Sho-wen of the ruling Kuomintang also said Ma has made a correct decision canceling his race schedule. Chang, who represents one of the areas hit by the torrential rains, Yunlin County, said it would have been good for the president to help promote sporting events, but under the present circumstances, Ma had to calculate the social costs and damage his participation in such an event would create, Chang said.

However, the legislator said the KMT caucus tends to think that Ma is not obliged to visit the disaster zones, as it is the responsibility of the Cabinet.

Farmers and others from the disaster-hit areas gave mixed responses to Ma's boat race cancellation and the possibility of him visiting the areas, according to the United Evening News.

Chiayi County Magistrate Chen Ming-wen said Ma should forget about visiting the rain-hit areas if he only wants to "stage a show."

Lin Yung-kuang, a ward chief of Meinung in Pingtung County, said Ma's visiting would be essential to solving their problems, as it would put pressure on local officials to get things done properly.

Farmers in Siluo, in Yunlin County, said it is imperative that Ma come, but some others said they have already fixed their rain-damaged farmland, and it would be too late for Ma to come to fully understand the extent of the disasters.

A farmer, surnamed Liao, said he thinks Ma's response to the disaster was too slow. He said paying them visits is not as important as giving them compensation for their damaged crops.

Updated : 2021-03-04 02:23 GMT+08:00