Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lin Fang-Yu and Tu Cheng-sheng: A Tale of Two Political Appointees

Lin Fang-Yu and Tu Cheng-sheng: A Tale of Two Political Appointees
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
October 2, 2008

Helping Lin Fang-yu rehabilitate himself is no easy task. That's because he keeps changing his position, and has yet to explain why. But once the European Union and New Zealand announced their own melamine testing standards, Lin Fang-yu's 2.5 PPM standard ceased being the butt of jokes. It was acknowledged as a reasonable industry standard. Lin Fang-yu was forced to step down merely because he made a reasonable and well-intentioned policy decision. His forced resignation reveals the cabinet's inability to stand up to mob sentiment. It also reveals the impetuousness and superficiality of Taiwan society.

Lin Fang-yu became the Liu cabinet's first sacrificial pawn, and revealed the Liu cabinet's timidity and ineptitude. Contrast the Liu cabinet's demeanor with the high-handed demeanor of the Chen Shui-bian regime. Take for example, Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng. Even when a position he had adopted was utterly indefensible, he remained as immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar. The difference between the two administrations is like night and day. It is impossible to apply the same standards when evaluating the relative merits of the two administrations' political appointees.

Tu Cheng-sheng could be considered the Chen Shui-bian regime's most controversial cabinet member. Tu often made off the wall political comments and distorted the educational curriculum with political ideology. He picked his nose in public. He dozed off in the legislature. He condoned his son's abuse of official power. He never apologized. He remained indifferent to the impact of his behavior on the community. He felt no need to reflect on his misconduct. Instead he dug in his heels and stonewalled. Worried parents no longer knew what to teach their children. Tu Cheng-sheng went from Curator of the National Palace Museum to Minister of Education. Six Premiers came and went, but Tu's job remained secure. Even when Chen Shui-bian faced defeat, and Democratic Progressive Party legislators demanded that Tu step down, he held out to the very last minute, and became the longest-lived cabinet appointee.

The Green Camp considered Tu Cheng-sheng a hero. He reflected the Chen Shui-bian regime's political philosophy. He reflected the Democratic Progressive Party's gangster mentality. What modern political party would allow a political appointee to persist in making such intemperate remarks without disciplining him or replacing him? What democratic political party would ever allow a rogue official to become a party hero? Tu Cheng-sheng, by demonstrating his peculiar form of loyalty to Pan Green values, hitched his wagon to Chen Shui-bian's star. This of course is how Chen Shui-bian hijacked the Democratic Progressive Party. Only criminal organizations such as triads, or criminal organizations disguised as political parties, swear such blood oaths and demonstrate such blind loyalty.

The Chen Shui-bian regime was a hardcore criminal enterprise. Lin Fang-yu, on the other hand, was a sacrificial victim for the Ma administration's weak-kneed technocracy. Lin Fang-yu's fatal mistake was to change the decision-making process but fail to explain why. Had Lin Fangyu been more devious, he could have defined any amount undetectable by instruments as "zero." He could have turned a blind eye to the matter, and muddled through. But as a health official with a conscience, Lin Fang-yu did not want to equivocate. He wanted to clarify the issue factually and scientifically. Unfortunately his honesty was twisted by the opposition party and Green Camp talking heads into "humans being are being valued less than pigs." A cowed ruling party felt obliged to apologize for Lin's statement, characterizing it as a "bolt out of the blue." The public, having lost confidence in the administration, blasted it mercilessly.

Apart from Lin Fang-yu's resignation, the most regrettable aspect of the entire incident was the public's irrationality, intolerance, and scientific ignorance. In fact, the tested amounts of artificial melamine additives are often thousands of times the amount leached from containers. The harm inflicted by the two cannot be equated. The European Union standard is 2.5 PPM. New Zealand's standard is 5 PPM. Lin Fang-yu's standard had a sound scientific basis. Furthermore, over the past 20 years, Taiwan has produced and exported god knows how many melamine products. Melamine is not merely the English name of the finished product, it is also the name of the raw ingredient. Many restaurants on Taiwan still use melamine dinnerware. One must make rational distinctions between melamine contaminated milk and melamine dinnerware. If one cannot, then Taiwan's contaminated milk crisis may end, but many innocent food vendors will become victims, with serious social and economic repercussions. Unfortunately the attitude of many politicians is "out of sight, out of mind."

Lin Fang-yu served as a cabinet member for 129 days. Tu Cheng-sheng served as a cabinet member for eight years. The two officials' very different fates reflect two very different administrations and two very different styles of governance. Their very different fates give pause for thought. The Chen Shui-bian administration's high-handed and tyrannical style provokes anger. The Ma Ying-jeou administration's dull-witted, mealy-mouthed style provokes exasperation.

Remember the SARS crisis? Taiwan was overwhelmed by ignorance and panic. Only when the World Health Organization issued a scientific report did people breath a sigh of relief. We can only hope that the contaminated milk incident will teach us the value of science and rationality.

2008.10.02 03:05 am

要 幫林芳郁「平反」並不容易,畢竟他自己決策反覆,又未能清楚說明政策轉變的邏輯。但在歐盟及紐西蘭相繼宣布三聚氰胺檢測標準後,林芳郁訂出的二點五PPM 卻不再是笑話一則,而是相對合理的執行標準。林芳郁為了一個誠實的決策下台,除暴露劉內閣未能面對民粹壓力,也反映了台灣社會的急躁和淺碟。


陳 水扁任內,杜正勝可謂是最滋爭議的閣員。在職務表現上,他經常撈過界發表與己無關的政治謬論,更用政治教條扭曲教育價值;在私人言行上,他當眾挖鼻孔、打 瞌睡、縱容其子濫用官舍,毫無忌憚;在社會形象上,他失德失態卻不反省,反而一味硬拗,讓父母擔心不知如何教育子女。然而,杜正勝從故宮院長到教長歷經六 任閣揆,地位始終鞏固;即使在陳水扁敗象已露之際,民進黨立委點名他該下台,他仍隨扁政府撐到最後一刻,成為最長命的閣員。

杜正勝被綠營 視如瑰寶,除反映扁政府的施政哲學,也折射了民進黨的幫派性格。試想,若是一個現代化政黨,怎麼會容許政務官長期奇言異行而不加以糾正或撤換?若是一個民 主政黨,怎麼可能完全不顧社會觀瞻,卻將離經叛道官員當成本黨的英雄人物?從這個角度看,如果說杜正勝以其奇特的綠色忠誠拴住了扁政府,那麼,陳水扁綁架 民進黨不正出於同樣的邏輯嗎?一個歃血為盟的幫派組織,才會存在這種「私忠」的潛規則。

相對於扁政府死硬的幫派性格,林芳郁的命運,就是 馬政府「懦弱的專業主義」下的犧牲品。林芳郁的錯誤,在於他變更了決策標準,卻又無法向社會清楚交代變更的緣由,這是他致命所在。其實,林芳郁若是個狡猾 的官員,他大可將儀器檢測不出來的部分視同「零檢出」,在行政上睜一隻眼、閉一隻眼,也就過關了。但作為一個不失良心的衛生官員,林芳郁不想含糊了事,而 意圖將科學與事實間的出入作個釐清。可惜,他的誠實,被混淆是非的在野黨及綠色名嘴譏為「人不如豬」,被方寸已亂的執政黨說成「青天霹靂」,被失去信心的 民眾罵到臭頭。

在整起事件中,讓人惋惜的不只是林芳郁的去職,而是社會對理性的缺乏包容,以及對科學的缺乏信心。事實上,三聚氰胺若是人 工添加,其驗出成分往往是器皿溶出量的千百倍,兩者危害自不可同日而語。從歐盟訂出的二點五PPM和紐西蘭的五PPM,說明林芳郁的標準有其科學根據。再 說,過去廿多年,台灣生產及輸出了不知多少「美耐皿」產品,這個名稱不僅是以三聚氰胺的英文melamine命名,而且是以它為原料製成;何況,台灣許多 店家至今也仍在使用這種餐具供客人食用。如果不能把大陸毒奶和美耐皿作出區隔,台灣毒奶風暴難以停歇也就罷了,它還會禍延許多無辜小吃商販,對社會經濟造 成嚴重衝擊。可惜,許多政客卻陷溺於「眼不見為淨」的自欺。



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