Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's Mailbag

Be comforted that European TV viewers still see Taiwan as that place where legislators hit each other. Be alarmed that Shih Ming-teh will need to sink to new lows to regain the media exposure he lost to an octogenarian criminal suspect.

Voting with your fists

Dear Johnny,

Having spent some years living in Taiwan and now residing back in Europe, it pains my heart to see the kind of appalling representation of Taiwan as illustrated on the UK's Sky News article of a full-scale brawl in the legislature. This is the kind of advertisement that makes Taiwan a laughingstock around the world.

While passions always have and always will run high in the arena of politics, elected officials are at the forefront of any society and so simply must behave in a rational manner, if for nothing else than to act with dignity for those they represent -- the people of Taiwan.

People on this side of the world are not so much appalled at the childish behavior of elected officials as they are amazed that the general population tolerates it. Officials who block bills for purely personal or political reasons, or those who either from frustration or just plain ignorance turn to violence, have no business representing a kiddies' little-league team, let alone a fragile country like Taiwan.

If this happened in a communist country, blame would fall solely on unelected officials. In Taiwan, these repeated incidents are seen as representative of the people. A reality of democracy: You get what you choose.

Irish Tony

Johnny replies: True words. But consider this: The legislature is the only place in Taiwan you will see such behavior. Maybe these turkeys offer a vision of Hell so stark and embarrassing that the population is chastened to act like the civilized people they are.

Seriously, the legislature may be a joke at times, if not a lot of the time, but there are reasons for this, and these reasons are never discussed by the chortling anchors who present the footage for comic relief at the end of a news bulletin.

One of them is that the blue-green divide cannot agree on how to dignify the chamber through a code of conduct. The other is that some of the legislation we are talking about is among the most obnoxious attacks on democratic principles you are likely to see. Proposing a law to place control of the Central Election Commission in the hands of the majority party? Hell, I'd just about start a fight to stop that myself.

Follow the real money

Dear Johnny,

I was wondering if you know what happened to the NT$60 million that remained from the Shih Ming-teh (施明德) rallies. Is he living the good life now? In Thailand, or China, as a red commie hero? Did he declare it on his tax form? Nobody seems to care about that anymore.

Maybe you should go out and investigate. Perhaps it's possible to get him for fraud.

Marc Van Lommel

Johnny replies: Well, as I wrote a while ago, Shih is back in Taipei and pretending to be an ascetic guru. And it's terribly hard for Shih these days to get any attention because his campaign has been wiped off the news pages and the cable news schedule by the flight of Wang You-theng (王又曾).

Anyway, you know why Shih would never be prosecuted (if he were guilty, cough cough) under a DPP government? Because these DPP saps would be stricken at condemning one of their own "long marchers" to prison all over again. You see, Marc, despite their myriad failings, the DPP bunch are basically like your average politician in the West. A bit ignorant, a bit selfish, a bit gormless, a bit phony, a bit corrupt and a bit irritating. But all in all, they're just people, and they wouldn't launch a Cultural Revolution, or inform on their relatives or purge their party icons out of personal spite or ideological mania. There are basic, human standards that stay upheld.

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