Heartless Politics and the Rape of Flowers
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 21, 2010
On the 19th of this month, this newspaper's "Issues in Black and White" column published an editorial entitled, "Naivete is not a Virtue." It criticized the Hau Lung-ping administration's tardy response to the Flora Expo controversy, which needlessly allowed the Flora Expo's image to be slandered. But the real guilt belongs to DPP councilmembers, who hurled false, out-of-context accusations. The Flora Expo has yet to open, but it is has already been viciously maligned as one huge pork barrel. The DPP perpetrated this "rape of the flowers." It is the real culprit. The DPP hypocritically proclaimed that it was "providing checks and balances" for the Taipei City Government. Can political parties consider only partisan advantage, and ignore the harm they inflict upon the nation and society?
Opposition parties must oversee the party in power. A democracy requires anti-corruption measures. No one objects to this. Oversight must protect the public interest. It must prevent those in office from abusing their power by engaging in corruption. Oversight however, is not a license to engage in irrational demagoguery. Oversight must be reasonable. It must help the public discern the truth. Oversight is not a license to turn facts on their head in an effort to bamboozle the public. DPP councilmembers tried to fabricate a Flora Expo scandal by demagoguing water spinach, basil, and bamboo pavilions. Examine the DPP councilmembers' ends and means, and one finds that the DPP councilmembers' actions were neither in the public interest nor consistent with reason.
Consider the rule of reason. The Flora Expo will display nearly 3000 varieties of fruits and vegetables. Over 30 million transplants will be on display. Out of this entire range, only four plants were priced above the norm. In other words, 99.9 percent of the plants were problem free. When an exhibit of such complexity conforms this closely to specifications, it is evidence of extraordinary administrative efficiency. If anything, it deserves public affirmation and warrants public pride. The average family probably overpays by a larger percentage in its domestic budget than the Hau administration.
The DPP is milking the 0.1 percent for all it is worth. It has locked its jaws around the issue and refuses to let go. One has to hand it to them. The DPP is playing the role of opposition party to the hilt. The only problem is that when Green Camp councilmembers level accusations of excessively high flower prices, they insinuate and embellish. They relentlessly attempt to mislead the public into believing that the procurement process was rife with pork. They characterize the entire Flora Expo as a hotbed of corruption, manipulated by Hau Lung-ping and the Taipei City Government. Do they care that their smear campaign has nothing to do with the truth? Hardly. For them the Flora Expo controversy is nothing more than an election strategy for the five cities elections. The Flora Expo controversy may well sabotage Hau Lung-bin's re-election efforts. But it hardly qualifies as "oversight." Such "whistleblowing" hardly conforms to the "principle of proportionality." It hardly meets the criteria of rationality, and still less morality.
The Green Camp has attempted to make a major issue out of water spinach. Green Camp councilmembers displayed a bunch of water spinach purchased from the local supermarket. They compared it with what they asserted was a sickly, withered specimen of water spinach, and asserted that the 20 NT per pot water spinach must have involved major pork. But they concealed certain facts. One. Out of the entire Flora Expo water spinach zone, they picked out the single ugliest specimen of water spinach. Two. A live plant is hardly the same as a harvested item from the supermarket. Three. Flora Expo water spinach specimens must be 20 centimeters wide by 20 centimeters high. Any given water spinach plant may have five or more stems. Therefore such comparisons are incorrect. Four. The overhead for flower growers include freight costs, display costs, and six months of guaranteed live maintenance costs. The DPP councilmembers were fully aware of the situation. Yet they deliberately distorted the facts in order to mislead the public. Clearly Green Camp claims that they were merely engaged in oversight on behalf of the public, were an inversion of the truth. In fact they were up to their usual dirty tricks.
Consider the public interest. If the construction of the Flower Expo venues and the procurement of plants involved inflated prices, fraud, or the squandering of public funds, of course any wrongdoing would have to be exposed. But the Flora Expo is not merely a venue for domestic flower growers and the domestic horticultural industry. It is an international event. It is a rare opportunity for landscape architects, technology and creative cultural industry entrepreneurs to showcase their masterpieces. This combined floral exhibit, tourism exhibit, and cultural exhibit, is exactly the world stage we need to showcase Taiwan's soft power. Naturally everyone involved must take extra care to maximize its chance of success. The Flora Expo has opened some of its venues to the public. Based on these, the Flora Expo has nothing to apologize for. The DPP hopes to use water spinach to destroy the Flora Expo. Are they really so heartless?
Consider the bamboo pavilion. Architects attempted to provide Taiwan's bamboo craft industry with a green stage at the Flora Expo. They extended a special invitation to elderly bamboo craft masters. They invited architecture students to participate in a hands-on student project. This thoughtful attempt to encourage creativity, created an elegant pavilion, and a valuable attraction within the Flora Expo. How did DPP councilmembers spin this success story? They characterized it as the "exploitation of students by their professors." In one fell swoop, they smeared the designer's heartfelt intentions, and the participants' laborious efforts. They indiscriminately hurled wild accusation, all under the mantle of "oversight." What difference is there between the DPP's "oversight" and outright sabotage?
The Republic of China government implemented democracy in the Taiwan Region for several decades ago. But "oversight" continues to be a synonym for sabotage. That is sad indeed. A prosperous Taiwan requires collective concern for the public good. it requires a collective appreciation for things of value. We urge the ruling and opposition parties to collectively consider how they can make the Flora Expo a success.
2010.09.21 11:22 am