Friday, April 10, 2009

Does Presidential Anger Spell Hope for Anti-Corruption?

Does Presidential Anger Spell Hope for Anti-Corruption?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 10, 2009

Is corruption more serious on Taiwan than on the mainland? Most people on Taiwan aren't convinced. According to the Asian Political and Economic Risk Consultancy's corruption evaluation report published yesterday, out of 17 regions in Asia, the United States, and Australia, Taiwan ranks eighth in severity of corruption. According to the foreign entrepreneurs who responded, corruption on Taiwan is even more serious than on the mainland! Because of this, President Ma Ying-jeou angrily called a press conference, and declared that the government was determined to combat corruption. He also demanded that government agencies issue reports within three months. It is rumored that Ma Ying-jeou's anger was directed primarily at the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Justice.

Ma Ying-jeou is right to get angry. Ever since becoming involved in politics, combatting corruption has been Ma Ying-jeou's highest priority, especially during his term as Minister of Justice. It was also one of the most important planks in his presidential campaign platform, and the key to his election victory. But nearly a year after taking office, apart from the ongoing investigation of the Chen corruption and money-laundering, one sees no signs that the President is combating corruption. The first wave of investigations led to a number of prosecutions. But a second wave has yet to show results. Huang Fang-yen is a key suspect in the Chen corruption and money-laundering case, currently on the wanted list. Yet he has flown the coop, and the Special Investigation Unit is utterly helpless.

A scandal within the upper ranks of the military has erupted. General officers bribed their way to promotions. General's stars were dispensed so freely they constituted a nebula. The stars had price tags of course. The former Major-General in charge of the Hengshan Command Post even accepted sexual favors during the Red Shirt Army "Depose Ah-Bian" protests, disgracing the armed services. Chen Shui-bian faction DPP Legislator Kao Chi-peng said this was the inevitable result of a Party/State Complex. For a Chen Shui-bian faction legislator to point the finger certainly takes chutzpah! During the Two Chiangs Era the Party/State Complex prevailed, yet promotion to general was extremely difficult. One never heard of generalships coming with price tags. During the Lee Teng-hui era, this remained the case. One never heard of any general being promoted because he paid money. It was only during the eight year long Chen Shui-bian era that over 730 officers were promoted to general. That generalships had price tags was rumored within the military long ago. Yet no one bothered to investigate. Huang Fang-yen, who fled the country as a result of the Chen corruption and money-laundering case, is a key figure in the appointment of generals within the military. He never boasted of his role to friends in private. If one wanted to buy a generalship, he was the man who could seal the deal. The scandal was uncovered not by the Special Investigation Unit, but by the Military Investigation Board, during an investigation of construction fraud. The Bill of Indictment also exposed former Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Cho Jung-tai's "recommendations." The investigation led to the indictments of the customers, the aspiring generals. The only person not indicted was the man doing the selling. Huang Fang-yen, the key suspect wanted by the Special Investigation Unit, flew the coop, What sort of anti-corruption is this?

Nor is this the only scandal within the military. From the Chinese Academy of Sciences construction scandal, to the recent generalships for sale scandal, how many have been investigated and indicted? What has the Department of Defense done? If the Military Investigation Board had not stumbled across it, the sale of generalships would have remained merely a rumor. During the eight year long Chen Shui-bian era, over 730 officers were promoted to general. Does the Ma administration's Secretary of Defense really have the guts to investigate and prosecute those generals who bought their positions, and take away their stars?

The DPP took over from the KMT. The KMT has since taken over from the DPP. But when has the Department of Defense ever had the guts to prosecute any of its generals? If the Department of Defense refuses to prosecute, then how will the public know which active duty generals promoted during the Chen Shui-bian era bought their stars? What will become of their credibility? The Department of Defense must set up an anti-corruption group, posthaste. It must submit a report within three months. The public will await the Defense Department's report in July, to see which generals will lose their stars.

Another reason for Ma Ying-jeou's anger is the Ministry of Justice. Public Prosecutor Wu Wen-Chung, who recently left the Special Investigation Unit and returned to the Taichung High Prosecutor's Office, said sarcastically, "Who has the guts to do what the President is asking? Saving your own hide comes first. Anyone who does what the president asks is an idiot." Wu expended a great deal of effort investigating the Chen case. He discovered that Chen corruption and money-laundering case suspect Huang Fang-yen, had expended little effort to rake in a fortune. And yet Huang still could not be extradited. How much Huang Fang-yen raked in from Ah-Bian's "Second Financial Reform" scam, from his money laundering operation, and from his sale of generalships remains a mystery. Prosecutors are not idiots. Nor is the general public so idiotic as to believe that the Special Investigation Group can extradite Huang Fang-yen merely because Ma Ying-jeou got angry. Forget the Chen corruption and money-laundering case. Has anyone investigated the Chen Shui-bian government's construction scandals or Chinese Medicine lobbying scandals? Those prosecuted are all outgoing legislators. Currently serving legislators have remained untouched. Not one of the suspects in the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit scandal has been prosecuted since the change in ruling parties. Forget the Taiwan Railway Administration scandal and the ETC scandal. The officials responsible have all fled the country. The case is dead. Unless someone makes a stink, it will not be investigated. The National Palace Museum Southern Branch scandal is even more mind-boggling. The case files have completely disappeared. Further investigation is impossible.

Combating corruption is easy to talk about but hard to do. Nobody wants to be the bad guy who stops others from getting rich. Government officials don't always cover for each other. But their philosophy is, as long as it can be covered up, why bother exposing it? As long as it can be swept under the rug, everything is simpatico. When people in authority feel this way, when they worry only about public scandals, they allow the corrupt to hide behind the good will of the multitude, and enjoy the fruits of their outrages. The Ma administration has been in power for nearly a year. But what does it have to show in the way of combating corruption? For the President to get angry is not a bad thing. But now that he has gotten angry, what the people really expect is results. These results had better be forthcoming three months from now.

中國時報  2009.04.10
社論-總統生氣後 我們等著看肅貪成效








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