Sat, Jan 12, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Purge corrupt legislators

After a number of scandals involving politician's exotic sex lives, a plain old case of bribery seems prosaic. But the alleged collective acceptance of bribes by members of the fourth Legislative Yuan just days before it becomes history is actually the most shocking and certainly the most dangerous. DPP legislators Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) and Chang Chin-fang (張清芳) have claimed that colleagues from virtually all parties and factions have participated in large-scale collective corruption.

The claims revolve around an amendment under review to the Electronic Game Regulation Law (電子遊戲場業管理條例), for support in the passing of which, it is alleged, around 20 lawmakers have received kickbacks of between NT$500,000 and NT$3 million from the owners of video game parlors. The amendment seeks to make video game parlors, currently banned, legal, as long as none of the games involve gambling. Since illegal gambling is likely to happen anyway, legalizing the parlors will be hugely lucrative for owners and detrimental to a society prone to gambling mania.

Being a whistleblower is not easy and these lawmakers deserve our approbation. They face factional pressure and personal attacks, but they have still stepped up to expose the illegal conduct of their colleagues. Their actions show a moral courage that we were beginning to think was wholly absent from what is probably one of the most venal lawmaking bodies in history.

As everyone knows, many elected representatives and officials at all levels are deeply involved with business conglomerates and the mafia. This is one of the reasons Taiwan is often criticized for its so-called "black-gold politics." The change of ruling party has not in and of itself been sufficient to make this corruption disappear. Exposing corruption is only the start of the process to eradicate it. What it needs is the application of both determination and resources on the government's part.

Previously, during the uproar over the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, allegations of accepting bribes have been hurled at a number of lawmakers and government officials. Investigating this alleged corruption, which took place several years ago under the notoriously corrupt KMT regime, is perhaps now impossible. But getting to the bottom of this latest bribery scandal should be well within the capacities of the Ministry of Justice. Effort and determination are needed to show that the day when large-scale bribery could escape criminal investigation and prosecution are past. The crony capitalist corruption that bloomed under the KMT has weakened Taiwan both economically and politically. It is time to show that it can be stamped out. Both those offering and those taking bribes need to be investigated, exposed and prosecuted with the utmost rigor and punished to the limit the law allows.

Voters will of course become even more aware of the need for reform of Taiwan's political system. Everyone realizes the difficulties of legislative reform. However, this is a necessary step for deepening Taiwan's democracy. Only through large-scale restructuring of Taiwan's lawmaking body can the professionalism, good faith, and moral character of legislators replace black-gold politics and salvage the rock-bottom image of Taiwan's representative institutions. Hopefully the collapse of the large majority held in the legislature by the opposition alliance -- which has worked hard to block measures that would make Taiwan's political system less corrupt (readers can guess why) -- in the Dec. 1 elections means that genuine reform might now be possible and the corrupt purged from Taiwan's political life.

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