Tue, Nov 21, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Unexpected results of a witch hunt

Whether or not Taipei Mayor and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is eventually indicted over the alleged misuse of his mayoral special allowance, the accusations leveled at him and the president over the use of their special funds have once again exposed the scale to which many government officials and civil servants past and present have enjoyed benefits and perks over the years.

Following the revelations of Ma's mayoral fund, it has emerged that these special accounts have been available to some 6,500 local government officials since the 1950s.

With details of these funds now emerging -- along with earlier exposure of the special 18 percent preferential interest rate for pensions enjoyed by retired teachers, soldiers and civil servants; the five-month salary payment given to certain government workers for funeral expenses; and other things such as tax-free earnings for military staff and civil servants -- the public is slowly but surely becoming aware of how recklessly large amounts of their tax dollars have been misused over the years.

Ma's claim that remitting half of the special mayoral fund into his personal bank account was "normal" and lawful just goes to highlight the lack of oversight for public money that has prevailed and how shady practices have become institutionalized.

The whole government system is littered with such examples. But should we really be surprised?

After all, the KMT -- the party that created Taiwan's political system -- has long been a party driven by nepotism and corruption.

Historians note that a failure to combat corruption was one of the main reasons why Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) Nationalists lost China to Mao Zedong's (毛澤東) communists.

And rampant corruption is why, after just 18 months of KMT rule under executive administrator Chen Yi (陳儀), the whole of Taiwan revolted in what became known as the 228 Incident.

The KMT's system of patronage was imported wholesale from China along with the Nationalist government and allowed to flourish during its five decades of party-state rule.

But it was done with good reason: the KMT needed to foster a culture of party loyalty to help preserve its rule on Taiwan.

And it was this need that led to the creation of such generous benefits for anybody that was willing to serve and remain faithful to the party.

Under a system like this, is it any wonder that career politicians like former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) have been able to amass such vast fortunes?

Ironically, it is now time to thank the KMT and the pan-blue camp, because their ceaseless and frenzied attempts to harm the president and win back power have inadvertently opened a can of worms that will possibly help to bring crashing down the flawed system that it profited from for five decades.

The fallout from the mayoral and presidential fund scandals is now threatening to spread, affecting officials past and present from both sides of the political divide, and hopefully bringing an end to yet another unwelcome relic of the party-state era.

But the most disappointing aspect of the whole episode is the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) role in bringing this about.

After years of hounding the KMT, accusing it of corruption and amassing stolen assets, the DPP seemed content after coming to power to sit back and enjoy the spoils of its victory instead of getting to work and rectifying all that was wrong with the rotten system it inherited.

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