Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Does anyone listen when Ma speaks?

Pan-blue lawmakers on the legislature's Procedure Committee on Tuesday once again blocked a number of bills from being put on the legislative agenda, despite a directive from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

The blocked bills included the long-stalled arms procurement budget, nominees for the Control Yuan and chief state prosecutor, draft legislation on the handling of stolen political party assets and the unfreezing of government budgets.

Ma's comments that his party would consider reviewing the arms procurement package and Control Yuan confirmations were completely ignored by his party's legislators, making people wonder if Ma can really be considered an effective leader when his party caucus disregards his directives.

When Ma assumed the KMT chairmanship in June last year, many people hoped that under his leadership the party would become a loyal opposition, reviewing draft legislation on its merits instead of opposing proposals just to oppose them.

Even critics expressed the hope that Ma would fulfill promises made by his predecessor Lien Chan (連戰), including a commitment that the KMT would return its stolen assets. The results, however, have been disappointing and expectations have been dashed.

To prove he is a determined party chairman -- and that he has the makings of a presidential candidate -- Ma must keep his promises and exert pressure on his party's caucus to review the long-stalled bills that matter to the people's wellbeing.

Maybe the problem is not Ma's inability to lead, but his unwillingness to make tough decisions and then stick with them. Ma often appears afraid to call the shots, especially when it comes to reining in his party's lawmakers. The best he can come up with is a weak "I will respect the caucus' decision."

The Cabinet's request to buy six Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile batteries, a squadron of 12 anti-submarine P-3C helicopters and eight diesel-electric submarines has been stalled so long there must be cobwebs on the paperwork. The watchdog Control Yuan, whose job it is to monitor the conduct of the government and civil servants, has been idle since Jan. 31 last year when the terms of its previous members expired, yet the opposition continues to refuse to review the list of nominees submitted by the president.

The KMT, as the largest opposition party, has been successful in paralyzing the Democratic Progressive Party administration by refusing to review almost all government-sponsored bills in the legislature. The people of Taiwan, however, are the ultimate victims of this long-running farce.

If Ma could start living up to his commitments and get his party caucus to follow his instructions, he would undoubtedly win respect from the public.

If Ma wants to become president and lead his party's return to power in 2008, he has to stop relying on his popularity as the KMT's leading candidate and actually do something worth voting for.

As the 2008 presidential election draws nearer, the public is waiting to see if Ma has any substance behind his dazzling facade, or if he is content to remain little more than a cardboard cut-out.

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