President Ma's Declarations are Not Enough
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 6, 2012
Summary: The Lin Yi-shi corruption case has dealt a major blow to President Ma's
reputation. Public approval has plummeted to a new low of 15%. The
Special Investigation Unit took immediate action and worked on the case
for several days straight. But if the Ma administration wants to reverse
the decline, it must take more convincing action. Only then can it
re-unite the people, and restore national morale.
Full Text below:
The Lin Yi-shi corruption case has dealt a major blow to President Ma's reputation. Public approval has plummeted to a new low of 15%. The Special Investigation Unit took immediate action and worked on the case for several days straight. But if the Ma administration wants to reverse the decline, it must take more convincing action. Only then can it re-unite the people, and restore national morale.
Lin Yi-shi abused his power as Secretary-General of the Executive Yuan to engage in corruption. He was immediately taken into custody. Clearly, the justice system has greater independence than before. But Ma Ying-jeou promoted Lin Yi-shi repeatedly. He contributed to LIn's unbridled arrogance. He is going to have a hard time avoiding ridicule for being a poor judge of character who was easily deceived. Turning everything over to the justice system will not make this go away. Superficially the matter pertains to Lin Yi-shi alone. But the Ma administration has stumbled repeatedly. The Lin corruption scandal has further undermined the Ma administration's prestige and popularity. This is what the ruling administration should concentrate on during this crisis.
President Ma has attempted to cope with the crisis, internally and externally, for several days. But the public senses little determination to turn the tide. One. When Ma first learned that a news magazine had blown the scandal wide open, he asked Lin Yi-shi to hold a press conference and explain himself. Nothing more. This made Ma look gullible and passive. Two. Ma subsequently issued a series of public apologies. But none came across as sincere, including his admonition that administration personnel should "learn a lesson from this." Ma's spin was disingenuous. It implied that he had nothing to do with it. Three. Ma's responses to any criticisms of his administration have never been convincing, Reciting "clean government" slogans merely reveals the impotence behind his good intentions.
Now in particular, dangers await. The affairs of state are overwhelming. Yet President Ma persists in his pro forma itinerary, giving speechs everywhere. He even presented certificates to comrades in the Central Standing Committee. He failed to allocate time to matters of state, or strengthen his resolve on national policy. Instead he shuttled back and forth, squandering valuable time on trivialities. Can this restore lost confidence in President Ma?
This does not mean a president must never participate in civic activities. It merely means he must reorder his priorities and make intelligent choices. If the nation's political and economic goals still need sorting out, yet leaders devote their time and energy to pro forma political speeches, how can they possibly rally the people to action?
Why was a corrupt martinet like Lin Yi-shi seen as a political golden boy? Beginning with Ma's first term. critics have repeatedly urged Ma to widen the circles from which he draws his staff and policy makers. They have urged him to listen more to suggestions from his presidential advisors, national policy advisors, and community leaders. President Ma loves giving talks before small groups. This has never changed. President Ma, when was the last time you heard this admonition? Do you remember who it was who gave you this advice?
President Ma is an honest man. He has integrity. Of this we need have no doubt. But honesty and integrity are personal virtues. To be a national leader in the public sector requires more. That is the gap that President Ma must fill. This involves three keys. One. The desire to lead must be transformed into concrete action. One cannot simply make ringing declarations and leave it at that. Ma Ying-jeou's political training has led to an over-reliance on political declarations, accompanied by a lack of actual follow-through. He must not muddle through a second four-year term. Otherwise he will accomplish nothing. Two. Ma must have a sense of urgency. Taiwan has been immoblized by internal bickering for years. Stronger leadership is required to lead the country out of its morass. President Ma must pick up the pace. He must break the deadlock. Otherwise, society will remain paralyzed by feelings of impotence, and the national nightmare will never end. Three. Ma must be willing to share power and delegate authority. A nation's development must not depend upon a single head of state. He must transcend partisanship and make the best use of human talent. If Ma continues to rely on his tiny circle of decision-makers things are unlikely to take a turn for the better.
President Ma is too much of a conformist. This cannot be denied. It has hampered his efforts at reform. It has made it hard to implement groundbreaking policies. Even more regrettable are Lin Yi-shi's corruption scandals. These have undermined the Ma administration's image. They have shown President Ma to be a poor judge of character. This is a crisis of governance, both for Ma's party and for the Ma administration. If the Ma administration merely parrots its anti-corruption declaration, or passively waits for the Special Investigation Unit to announce its findings, it cannot mollify public anger and disappointment. The Lin corruption scandal was a slap in Ma's face. President Ma must act to restore his reputation. Otherwise he can forget about any historical legacy.