Six years on the Presidential Office has not yet realized the nation's dreams, but rather has become embroiled in a series of corruption scandals. Faced with this serious and unprecedented situation, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Yu Shyi-kun have issued formal apologies.
But I am afraid that these apologies are not going to be enough. To live up to peoples' expectations, Chen and the DPP should take more active and concrete measures.
Responding to the recent deluge of criticisms against his family, Chen made a statement last Saturday, saying that he was sorry for the recent scandals and would like to offer his most sincere apologies to the public. He also said that he would undergo more self-examination and humbly accept criticism. Although it is no easy task for the president to make an apology like this, it was inadequate given the gravity of the problem.
Even though Chen's dignity has taken a hit with his apology, the allegations against the members of his extended family have dealt a significant blow to the nation and society as a whole. Since Chen came to power, he has repeated the same perfunctory statement: "I will humbly accept criticism." And then goes on to act as if nothing has happened.
Chen must conduct a thorough investigation into all illegal actions that his family, relatives and friends may have committed. He should take the initiative to establish an investigative task force capable of reviewing all the media allegations of inappropriate behavior against his family over the past six years.
He should also form a similar investigative task force within the Presidential Office with a view to examining official misconduct.
Chen invariably asks his people involved in scandals to clarify their behavior in person, but when something has gone wrong, most of them will not tell the truth.
Chen tends to believe that if things are explained, that means that there is no problem. It is strange that it has been so easy to dupe the president, and it should not happen again.
During the authoritarian era, the first family was something mysterious and sacred and they were never subjected to criticism.
When former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was in power, the outside world could be a bit critical of his family when any misconduct was found, but that was all. Chen's son-in-law Chao Chien-ming's (趙建銘) involvement in an insider-trading scandal seems serious now, but Lai Kuo-chou (賴國洲), Lee's son-in-law, held more than 20 posts concurrently, a clear abuse of privilege that may even have been illegal.
All these examples indicate that the popular election of the president has not led to improved moral standards as far as first families are concerned. Chen should take advantage of this opportunity to establish clear rules for the moral conduct of the first family.
When making his formal apology, Chen stressed that, during the last two years of his presidency, he will adopt the highest moral standards when reviewing the conduct of the first family and forbid all members from becoming involved in public affairs or using their status to extract personal gain.
Although Chen's unambiguous statement is a step in the right direction, it is not enough. Chen's remark is only an indication of the the basic ethics his family should ascribe to, but falls a long way short of a code of conduct.