Tue, Jul 27, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Clarity needed in latest scandal

The Taipei Representative Office in the UK has now made the same mistake twice by issuing documents to Andrew Wang (汪傳浦), and his wife, Yeh Hsiu-chen (葉秀貞), both involved in the murder case of navy Captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓) and the Lafayette frigate scandal. Wang and his wife were issued with legal documents by Taiwan's representative office in the UK. The public's attention has turned to the responsibility of Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂), Taiwan's representative to the UK, and former Foreign Minister Eugene Chien (簡又新). But actually, a review of the attitude of foreign affairs officials is far more urgent.

Tien and Chien are senior political officials, and both have served as foreign minister. They both heard President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) express his determination to get to the bottom of Yin's murder and the frigate scandal, even if it rocked the nation. As part of the government's leadership, Tien and Chien should have exerted their greatest effort to prevent this latest incident from happening. Sadly, the major criminal suspect, Andrew Wang, has twice escaped through the loopholes of Taiwan's diplomatic system. In the face of this incident over document verification, Tien and Chien can only accept the blame, without having the opportunity to provide any explanation.

Chang Chia-hua (張家華) -- the official in the UK office who issued the documents to Wang -- has already made the same administrative mistake twice. This not only shows her lack of vigilance, but also demonstrates the flaws in the document verification system of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its offices abroad. However, although Premier Yu Shyi-kun and the public severely condemned this mistake, ministry officials -- and Chang herself -- seemed to believe that the mistakes were insignificant. They claimed they did not violate any laws, and that it was merely an administrative flaw, since the UK office failed to immediately report Yeh's application to the ministry. These administrative officials also blamed Yu and his Cabinet for making a fuss over a trifling matter and criticized the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government for passing the buck to others.

Whether these officials have violated the law will be decided later in the investigation by our judicial agencies. What we are concerned about now is their attitude. In any efficient and successful private enterprise, employees are dismissed if they break the law. Even if they only break internal regulations, they face serious punishment. Surprisingly, these government officials did not view their administrative mistakes seriously, and did not mind damaging the government's image and reputation. They did not even admit their mistakes. This is why the ministry should be criticized as muddleheaded and careless, and why it is unable to deal with today's rapidly-changing international situation.

On Sunday night, when Tien arrived in Taipei, he made a five-point statement, asking the ministry to "act according to the law and guarantee individual rights" by giving officials involved in the case a chance to present their side of the story. Tien emphasized that representative offices, in conducting their consular duties, must follow instructions from their superiors. In saying this, Tien is underlining the fact that the representative office may not be solely to blame for the mistake over document verification. The ministry may be an accomplice in the case.

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