Thu, Jun 08, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Justice ministry needs to do its job

It is widely known that prosecutors are not allowed to divulge information to third parties during an investigation, a principle that the Ministry of Justice has time and again reiterated it would defend with vigor.

Yet how strange it is that since President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘), was detained by the Taipei Prosecutors' Office on May 25 for his alleged involvement in an inside trading scam, the nation's newspapers have carried front-page stories detailing the latest development in the case against Chao almost every day.

Thanks to the media reports, we know the details of the raid on the Chao family, what transpired between Chao and prosecution personnel during questioning and the content of written statements given to the police. We also know what Chao ate on his first days in detention.

While some may argue that the reporters are simply doing their job and keeping the public informed, it is blatantly obvious that there are personnel within the prosecution team that are violating the prohibition on disclosing information to outsiders.

The latest addition to the list of people receiving information from these sources was Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who on Tuesday said that "according to information from prosecution units, the scandal concerning President Chen and first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) will continue to snowball."

Ma joins some other auspicious insiders, including KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅), who in recent months has appeared on TV as an "all-knowing muckraker" making claims of alleged wrong-doings based on "information obtained from sources in the prosecution units."

How long is the justice ministry going to sit by and let its prosecutors and investigation personnel break its own rules? And how long is the ministry going to let politicians make claims and pass on information that call into doubt the integrity of the country's judicial system?

It is sad enough that pan-blue politicians so willingly choose to bad-mouth the Democratic Progressive Party administration based on information from some "Deep Throat wannabe."

It is, however, much worse to see the government do nothing to prevent these events slowly degenerating into a collective farce that promises to tarnish the image of the nation and possibly innocent individuals whose names are so often bandied about with little or no compunction.

In order to put a brake on the rumor mill, the justice ministry should crack down on offenders and make it known that leaks will not be tolerated.

After all, the Taiwanese taxpayer does not pay these people to be research staff for the pan-blue camp or the country's ravenous media. We want them to act in a way that is worthy of their authority.

What sense does it make to have prosecutors investigating suspected criminals when they themselves are so blatantly breaking the law?

If Chiu really has picked up some useful information from legitimate sources, ministry officials should be quick to ask him to pass it on to them.

The public is tired of the justice ministry, among many others, paying lip service to its goals. It's time for the ministry to get its act together.

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