'I just closed my eyes'

Taiwan’s Education Minister, Tu Cheng-sheng, on Monday fought a war of words with opposition parliamentarians over whether he had dozed off during an emergency meeting conducted by the island’s leader on measures to deal with Typhoon Krosa.

“I didn’t fall into sleep, not at all. I just closed my eyes and that’s not dozing,” said Tu, who was criticised in a parliamentary session on Monday by opposition Nationalist Party parliamentarian Ting Shou-chung for neglecting his duty and dozing off in the middle of the meeting.

Tu was caught by local television media that aired footage showing he made a huge yawning before resting his head on the chair with eyes closed in the middle of the high-level meeting convened by President Chen Shui-bian on Saturday.

As Tu was the sole official who had his head resting on his chair and eyes closed for minutes during the meeting, opposition parliamentarians said he had no concern about the property and lives of the general public in the wake of the typhoon. Krosa was reported to have killed at least 18 people and caused more than $35-million in farm losses to Taiwan.

Tu said he did not snooze as the local media had reported.
“I might have my eyes closed, but I was still listening attentively. So what the news media said was just misleading, and trying to smear me,” he claimed.

Another Nationalist parliamentarian, Diane Lee, mocked the education minister by saying that there was nothing wrong if he was able to listen to what the president had said while sleeping.

“All you need is to say you have this super ability to listen to others while sleeping and no one can criticise you any more,” she said.

Tu has been the constant target of attack by the pro-unification opposition camp over what it sees as his “arrogance” and his education policy to promote the Taiwanese identity in schools, a policy Beijing has slammed as an act of “creeping independence” by the island.—Sapa-dpa

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