Thu, Mar 21, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Old secrets don't stay buried

Scandals and feuds aren't like old soldiers -- they don't just fade away. The latest scandals to monopolize the headlines are also proof that it will take years before all the dirty laundry hidden by the KMT government is discovered and dealt with. At the root of the scandals is a struggle for control over Taiwan's national security apparatus. But this power struggle is linked to the old grudge-match between former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and one of his premiers, former chief of the general staff Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) .

Control Yuan member Kang Ning-hsiang (康寧祥) yesterday presented a report on the Lafayette frigate scandal that places the blame for irregularities in the purchase of the frigates and German minesweepers squarely on Hau. His report has opened up the dark history of secret deals and kickbacks under the KMT government, and clarifies the administrative liabilities involved in those purchases. Kang claims that Hau altered the ship-purchase programs without notifying Lee. However, Hau is likely to escape any prosecution, since the Control Yuan has already passed a resolution barring pursuit of his responsibility for the scandal or his impeachment.

Kang's report also addresses the murder of navy Captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓), which was linked to the Lafayette scandal. Even though it details the military's attempts to mislead or obstruct the murder investigation, it does not actually shed much light on who killed Yin. This is the major drawback to what would otherwise have been a brilliant report.

But Kang's report was almost completely over-shadowed yesterday by the growing furor over claims by former National Security Bureau (NSB) cashier -- and alleged embezzler -- Liu Kuan-chun (劉冠軍) that Lee inappropriately used funds from two secret NSB accounts. Some people find the timing of Liu's leaks highly suspicious and believe they were designed to deflect media attention away from Hau and onto Lee. PFP legislators certainly lost no time in condemning Lee because of Liu's allegations. At a press conference yesterday, PFP legislators accused Lee of breaking the law and urged he be prosecuted.

The timing of Liu's leaks is certainly a sign that the power struggle between the old and new guard -- between mainlander and Taiwanese -- in the national security institutions that erupted after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office has yet to be resolved.

The NSB was quick to suggest that Next magazine might have violated national security laws by reporting Liu's allegations, although it didn't seem equally upset with the China Times for doing exactly the same thing. Despite an attempt to block publication of Next's latest issue, both the magazine and the China Times gave extensive coverage to Liu's allegations yesterday.

More allegations and counter-allegations will surely be aired in the coming days. But one thing is clear. The attempt to place blame for past wrongdoings should not sideline efforts to prevent such mistakes from happening again.

Because military procurement programs have long been conducted behind closed doors and without outside supervision, kickbacks and illegal deals were far too easy to arrange. Nothing was allowed to interrupt such corruption, even if it meant murder. Secret funds, especially those for national security agencies, are also open invitations for abuse. Because only a handful of people control the NSB's secret funds, the lack of supervision made it easier to embezzle money from them.

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