Wed, Apr 04, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Ma caught in a web of ironies

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman -- and now defendant -- Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) appeared at the Taipei District Court yesterday for the opening of his trial for alleged embezzlement as Taipei mayor. Ma's indictment for corruption has had a deep emotional impact on him and the public.

What is most unacceptable, however, has not been the way he has behaved as an indicted man. Rather, it is the inconsistent manner in which he has reacted to legal and political developments, which sets a poor example.

On the eve of the trial, Ma said during TV interviews that "some people are trying to purge [him] through the courts." He also said that he would run for the presidency even if a court found him guilty, as he would only be barred from running under Taiwanese law until the appeal process had been exhausted. Such words lay bare his contempt for the judiciary.

Perhaps he has already forgotten that he praised that very same judicial system when first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) was indicted for corruption. But now that he has been indicted, the judicial system has suddenly turned into a vicious political tool. Such words are hardly befitting of a former minister of justice.

As it became clear that Ma could be indicted on charges of corruption -- a development which could impact the KMT's chances of winning the presidency next year -- Ma's supporters in the KMT started planning to amend the party charter to remove the anti-corruption clause that, if retained, would result in Ma's suspension from the party.

While KMT Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said that members were free to state their opinions because freedom of speech is safeguarded in the party, he also said that Ma would insist on respecting the party's by-laws and oppose any moves to rewrite the charter for his sake.

As it turns out, on the day Ma was indicted, he announced at a press conference that he intended to seek the presidency, whereupon the KMT eliminated the aforementioned obstacle to his campaign by amending the clause. The KMT could even go one step further and amend another by-law which stipulates that members found guilty of a crime in a court of law cannot be nominated as the party's presidential candidate.

Ma's problem is that he oversimplifies the complexity of domestic politics. When, last year, former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) led a campaign to oust President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) from office, Ma said that Taiwanese could no longer accept being represented by a president linked to corruption. Irony of ironies, Ma has been indicted on corruption charges and faces possible jail time, and all his past criticisms of Chen are coming back to haunt him.

Ma is a man who sees himself as having higher moral standards than the rest of us. He is prone to preaching and quick to criticize others for not being as virtuous as he. Little did he know that one day he would be indicted on corruption charges and the impeccable moral standards he expects of others would be applied to himself.

In the end, exposed for what he is, he is left with little choice but to surrender his mock halo of sanctity and resort to political scheming and populist rhetoric to protect himself. The discrepancy between his former image and the one that has emerged could not be more lurid.

Mr Consistent certainly does not practice what he preaches.

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