President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has touted the Maokong Gondola and the Mass Rapid Transit system’s Neihu Line as two major achievements of his eight-year stint as the mayor of Taipei. To highlight his role as a key figure in making these projects possible, Ma was invited by Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to take part in the inauguration of the gondola in July last year and the Neihu Line earlier this month.
But neither project has covered itself with glory, with the former struggling to justify the massive amount invested to provide the public with a sound and safe mode of transportation.
The Maokong Gondola, which cost more than NT$1 billion (US$30 million) to build, has been suspended since October because of safety concerns. The NT$60 billion Neihu Line, which opened less than two weeks ago, is on probation because of frequent malfunctions. A major system fault last Friday forced the evacuation of about 700 passengers who had to walk the tracks back to the stations.
At the height of the controversy and criticism surrounding the gondola late last year, Hau said his predecessor — Ma — should not be held responsible for a compromised supporting pillar.
The Control Yuan supported Hau by saying it would not investigate Ma’s involvement during its probe of the gondola’s construction. Ma was also quick to distance himself from the problem, saying the gondola’s “engineering” was a “professional [issue] and not for me to decide.”
This time was no different.
Ma was mayor when some key decisions on the construction of the Neihu Line were made. However, the Taipei City Government has pinned the blame solely on Bombardier — the Neihu Line contractor — for problems with the system’s integration with the Muzha Line, while overlooking the administrative responsibility of those who signed the papers for the project’s construction.
Control Yuan member Ger Yeong-kuang (葛永光), who is in charge of the investigation into the Neihu Line, said yesterday that the government watchdog might “consult” Ma on what happened during his stint as Taipei mayor.
“Consulting” — as opposed to “questioning” — is an indicator that the public should not expect much from the Control Yuan’s investigation.
This recurring pattern is disturbing: When things go right, Ma flashes a big smile in front of news cameras and touts projects as his accomplishments. But when problems start to surface, he disappears from view while his supporters rush to disassociate the president from potential debacles.
When Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien (王建煊) was sworn in last September, he vowed that the government watchdog would not be an agency that “only catches flies but does not dare to catch the tiger.”
The public is waiting to see if the Control Yuan can live up to Wang’s pledge.