Despite widespread criticism of his explicit denial of responsibility in the environmental disaster caused by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group in central Vietnam, a Vietnamese lawmaker has been awarded a new post on an economic committee.
Vo Kim Cu, who opened the door for Formosa to begin operations in the north-central province of Ha Tinh when he was the province’s top official in 2008, with the company later severely damaging the environment there, has been selected as a member of the National Assembly Economic Committee.
The appointment was made during a National Assembly Standing Committee meeting on personnel endorsement for the legislature’s commissions on Friday last week, as confirmed by a top legislator on Monday.
Cu will take the new position along with his current post -- chairman of the Vietnam Cooperative Alliance.
His appointment comes as a surprise to the public as Cu is currently at the center of a storm of criticism for consistently rejecting allegations that he is responsible for the Formosa scandal.
In 2008, Cu was deputy chairman of the Ha Tinh administration and head of the management board of the Vung Ang Economic Zone. At that time, he strongly supported the investment proposal of Formosa, and eventually granted the investment license to the Taiwanese company by himself later the same year.
Cu even gave permission for Formosa to operate in Vung Ang for 70 years, going against the 50-year limit as governed by the Vietnamese law on investment.
He said he had been backed by the prime minister to give such a huge incentive to Formosa, but has so far provided no evidence for that.
On June 31, Formosa admitted that untreated water dumped directly into the sea from its steel mill in Ha Tinh was the main cause of the deaths of hundreds of tons of fish along four central Vietnamese provinces.
The environmental disaster affected some 100,000 fishermen and local laborers of the fishing and seafood industries, according to a government report.
Cu told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Sunday that he is only “partially responsible” for the scandal, insisting that his approval of the Formosa project “was in line with regulations, [and] the violations are totally the business of Formosa.”
He said that he is not to blame for any failures of the Taiwanese company following his approval, as the responsibility was with “competent agencies.”
The deflections have ignited a new wave of outrage toward the legislator.
“It is like he is trying to cover an elephant with a handkerchief,” Vu Pham Quyet Thang, a former deputy state inspector, told Tuoi Tre on Monday.
Even while it is not clear if Cu has done anything wrong in the scandal, “with the responsibility and morality of a top leader, he should have taken full responsibility,” Thang said.