Sun, Nov 04, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Guard's death exposes deficiencies

By Yang Yung-nane 楊永年

Last week a military police captain serving as a security guard in the presidential residence killed himself while on duty. The cause of the suicide is still being investigated. Since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his family members were all in the building when the incident occurred, it sent shockwaves through the Presidential Office and the National Security Bureau (NSB).

After the incident, many people focused on the reason for the suicide. Since the case involved a death and occurred in the presidential residence, a comprehensive and thorough investigation needs to be conducted.

At age 27, the military officer was still young, and working at the presidential residence, he supposedly should have had a promising career ahead of him. Moreover, the fact that the officer chose to kill himself while on duty hints of a connection to the national security establishment and how it is managed -- the national security mechanism.

The investigation into the case therefore must not overlook the security gaps exposed by the incident. Since the security of the president equals the security of the nation, any mistake could lead to national unrest. Thus, no gaps in security can be tolerated. Whatever the cause of the suicide, we cannot disregard the existing problems in the national security system.

After thorough analysis of the related information, it would seem that this case exposes at least three serious gaps in the national security mechanism.

First are the gaps in the sentry duty system.

The president and his family were in the residence when the suicide occurred which immediately creating a gap in the system and a problem for the safety of the president and his family members.

Although we do not know whether the security system instantly filled the hole or whether the security organization instantly adjusted the security management to ensure safety, it can be easily seen from the following that a security problem continues to exist.

There were gaps in risk management after the incident. In theory, there should be a quick response after an incident occurs. Yet media reports said the officer wasn't immediately sent to the hospital, and that the president, the command center and the internal organizations had inconsistent interpretations of the incident, especially regarding the reasons for the suicide.

This gap and inconsistency could lead not only to low morale among security guards but could also have an impact on security. The main point is that this incident exposes organizational disorder and gaps in the crisis management mechanism.

Having looked at the gaps in the national security mechanism, how should the situation be improved? Some legislators have suggested that the NSB should immediately evaluate the mental health of all security guards serving in key postings such as at the presidential and vice presidential residences and workplaces, especially for those armed bodyguards and security guards working close to the president and vice president. Any guards with issues or who have been employed through connections or just to fill a vacancy should all be retrained.

However, the government should spend some time examining the presidential security system and reviewing problems in organizational management rather than focusing on individuals and trying to root out guards who may have mental problems.

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