Monday, July 27, 2009

Don't Make Us Sigh and Shake Our Heads Again

Don't Make Us Sigh and Shake Our Heads Again
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
July 27, 2009

As expected, there were no surprises. Yesterday Ma Ying-jeou received 94% of the vote, and was elected Chairman of the KMT. This was quite different from eight years ago, during Lien Chan's tragi-heroic campaign for the party chairmanship. Back then the KMT was forced to hand over power because it had just lost the presidential election. This was quite different from four years ago, when Ma found himself in fierce competition with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng. Ma Ying-jeou was the beneficiary of expectations the public had regarding KMT generational change and KMT internal reforms. This was quite different from two years ago, when Wu Poh-hsiung assumed the party chairmanship following an emergency by-election. The entire party was united. It wanted Ma Ying-jeou to safely weather the Discretionary Fund crisis, and win back political power. This time Ma was Head of State. He respectfully touched all the bases, soliciting everyones' support. With the exception of candidates for party representative, party insiders were lukewarm about the election. The general public was unconcerned as well.
The KMT has been back in power for one year. As president and party chairman, Ma Ying-jeou must be aware of changes in public sentiment. Public silence reflects public disappointment in the KMT. This disappointment is not the result of how the party or government is administered. It is the result of Ma Ying-jeou's manner of decision-making.

During Ma Ying-jeou's campaign for the party chairmanship the Department of Defense published a report, complete with numbers and the results of investigations into corruption. How did Ma Ying-jeou respond? He gave orders to continue checking, to continue checking on a regular basis. Death threats were sent and received within the Bureau of Armament and Acquisition (OLBAA). Infighting broke out within the Bureau of Military Intelligence. Security breaches were discovered within the Presidential Palace. How did Ma Ying-jeou respond? He said he would need a full month before proposing a solution. Fortunately the Legislative Yuan had already adjourned. But before it went into recess, the Legislative Yuan gave the "Civil Service Administrative Neutrality Act," a Third Reading, and applied the law even to academic research institutions. The Academia Sinica reacted with fury. The Examination Yuan could only apologize to the Academia Sinica. It lacked the courage to urge that the bill be amended. This bill was sponsored by the Executive Yuan, yet it behaved as if it had nothing to do with it. The KMT has the most seats in the national legislature. Yet it displayed no concern for the scholars' problem. Instead, it castigated Academia Sinica Chief Ong Chi-hiu. President Ma Ying-jeou should have attempted to make peace. Instead he said nothing. He may not even be aware of the bill. He may not have even seen it, even though it bears the seal of the Office of the President.

Just what has Ma Ying-jeou been doing all this time? He has been running around peddling his platform for party chairmanship. While Ma was in Hualien, a village leader attempted to present him with a petition. He was stopped by Ma's bodyguards. Since when did it become taboo for even party members to petition their own party chairman? Ma has been diligently filming "Governing the Nation: A Weekly Journal." Netizens have revealed that it was shot in advance. But that is hardly its biggest problem. The biggest problem is that after watching Ma Ying-jeou in his weekly chronicle, one cannot find any suggestion of how he intends to govern the nation. One cannot find any record of his political acomplishments. What problems has the President taken on and solved? What problems has the President singled out for emergency resolution? What problems does the President consider urgent? The answer is none. All we see is Ma Ying-jeou sharing his personal feelings. Ma's feelings about the Kaohsiung World Games, Ma's feelings about university students' choice of universities and choice of majors are all matters the President has a right to talk about. But do these matters really represent the President's strategy for governing the nation?

The shine is off Ma Ying-jeou's reforms. They are nowhere as resonant or moving as they once were. Many people no longer want to hear about them. Many people may listen politely to Ma Ying-jeou sharing his feelings. But after listening they merely sigh and tell themselves not to expect too much. Ma Ying-jeou wants to remain a Teflon president. That means he has no intention of doing too much. When members of the public sigh and express disappointment with Ma, they do so for good reason. For example, Ma Ying-jeou invited leaders of social movements to the Presidential Palace to discuss the Parade and Assembly Law. The result was a bill that ran counter to the wishes of the social movement leaders. The law has yet to be given its Third Reading in the Legislative Yuan. Reform-minded civic leaders dare not raise too much of a hue and cry. They have met with the President several times. So far, the talks have led nowhere. They have no idea whether President Ma Ying-jeou supports or opposes the reforms proposed by former Minister of Justice Ong Yueh-sheng. The Chen Shui-bian administration provoked intense controversy when he removed the sign on the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Ma Ying-jeou once said that any changes would first be subject to a civic forum. Instead, the Ministry of Education held three seminars with experts, then rehung the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall sign. It did not even have the courage to tell the public. The majority of experts suggested making no moves for the time being.

Over the past year, the Ma Liu administration's manner of decision-making has raised serious doubts among the public. Once Ma Ying-jeou becomes party chairman, will he take responsibility for matters he cannot or will not take responsibility for now? Asking a political party that has recently reacquired power to recall the hardships it experienced when it was in the opposition, is clearly difficult. At the local level, most of the candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring and who can't be persuaded to withdraw, have been indicted for corruption or vote-buying. At the central level, all problems are perceived as other peoples' problems. Whenever controversies arise, the immediate reaction is to impose silence. The problems that have arisen arose during the past year. The criticism, "lacks drive," sums up the public's estimation of Ma Ying-jeou. Ma Ying-jeou has chosen to become Party Chairman. In order to ensure smooth operations within the party and the government, in order to speed up adminstrative processes within government and reform the party, Ma must be decisive. Starting today, he must stop mumbling to himself before the cameras. He must show the public that Ma Ying-jeou is a leader who is able to act.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2009.07.27







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