Thu, Jan 04, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: I'm only doing my job, ma'am

Can people be punished for doing their job?

Apparently so -- at least here in Taiwan -- where concepts of professional credibility have been distorted by political wrangling.

Pan-blue legislators on Tuesday heckled the military police (MP) over an incident involving a female protester who disturbed the flag-raising ceremony on New Year's Day in front of the Presidential Office by shouting "Chen Shui-bian, step down!"

MPs attempted to gag her with towels as she was forcefully removed from the Presidential Plaza, where President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) presided over the flag-raising ceremony.

Granted, the action of gagging someone with a towel needs to be re-evaluated, but aren't pan-blue legislators overreacting just as much by slamming the MPs who were simply doing their job -- which was to secure the perimeter around the president?

The pan-blue camp's fierce reaction prompted Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) to order an inquiry into the matter on grounds of "inappropriate handling." A colonel also received a demerit over the incident.

The pan-blue camp argued that the woman hadn't commited a crime and that the MPs had violated her freedom of speech.

What the pan-blue legislators failed to take into consideration, however, was that with freedom comes the responsibility to respect others.

The female protester, identified as Hsu Hsi-erh (許希爾), later shared her complaints at the anti-Chen campaign headquarters.

It is apparent that Hsu's actions on Monday weren't a mere protest but were aimed at embarrassing the president. Freedom of expression does not mean that an individual is free to do or say anything without having to face consequences.

As stipulated by the National Security Bureau, which is in charge of ensuring the personal security of the president, the primary responsibility of the MPs stationed in front of the Presidential Office was to protect the president.

When people make a scene during a flag-raising ceremony that could potentially pose a threat to the president, it is not unreasonable to expect that MPs will do more than just stand by and do nothing.

When Wang Wenyi (王文怡), an employee of the Falun Gong publication the Epoch Times, heckled President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on the White House lawn last April, she was removed by security officers. No one objected because security officials were simply doing their job.

What MPs did on Monday was also what is expected of security officials. They were only doing their job.

The pan-blue camp's overreaction, together with the minister of national defense's yielding to their pressure, sends the wrong message to duty-bound military officials and could leave MPs scratching their heads over what their responsibilities are.

In view of the disciplinary action meted out following Monday's incident, MPs and national security personnel alike might show some reluctance next time a situation calls for action to protect the president. They might fear punishment because their supervisors don't have the guts to stand up to the hysterics of the pan-blue camp.

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