Fri, Sep 04, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan is looking for a few good politicians

By Lu Shih-hsiang 盧世祥

The floods caused by Typhoon Morakot have turned into a political landslide, with foreign media outlets referring to the situation as President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Hurricane Katrina. Ma has always been a media favorite; he won office with a very large number of votes and holds absolute power, having been elected president and chairman of the ruling party. However, the Morakot disaster caused Ma’s popularity to plummet, with some saying that the “post-Ma era” has started.

Ma has paid no attention to such comments or to public opinion, and has stood strongly behind Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), who has an abysmal approval rating of 11 percent. Ma has stubbornly insisted on doing what he believes to be best without regard to public opinion because he believes that the public is easy to deceive. Ma seemed to think that the whole affair would blow over in a couple of days by making visits to disaster areas, apologizing and extending the amount of time he spent bowing as he apologized. But the public has seen through the Ma administration and will not be so easily deceived in future.

The lack of interest in the disaster shown by the administration, its incompetence, lack of ethics, shirking of responsibility and arrogance are an international embarrassment. Even more ridiculous is that many officials were off enjoying themselves during the first 72 hours of the disaster. How on earth could our top officials carry on as usual when disaster victims were putting up a desperate fight against floodwaters and landslides?

The Ma administration has always talked about feeling the pain of the public and helping them. This concern has been shown to be a fraud.

Taiwan has far too many civil servants that deeply believe that politics is the highest form of trickery. They are apt at deceiving the public and are used to telling lies. Such bureaucrats must change their ways if Taiwan is to become a better democracy. We need to identify those responsible for the exacerbation of problems caused by Morakot and hold them accountable for their actions.

What senior officials were doing during the first 72 hours of the disaster is the most important matter at hand. The Presidential Office has refused calls to release Ma’s itinerary at that time. Other senior officials such as Liu also have no intention of making their itineraries known.

These officials had a hard time coming up with any acceptable reason why they chose to reject foreign assistance. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrew Hsia (夏立言) resigned in a bid to put an end to questions about this. The use of Hsia as a scapegoat shows that the truth has been covered up, and I am sure we will hear about a cover-up similar in scale to the Watergate scandal if certain “deep throats” make the details known.

The public has lost all faith in the president and the bureaucracy. Our civil servants should stand up and take responsibility for their own actions. Apart from natural disasters and disasters caused by human negligence, issues such as the problem-stricken Neihu-Muzha MRT Line and the swine flu epidemic have led the public to question the government’s ability.

If the government is serious about winning back public trust, it is crucial that those in power now reveal the truth about the abovementioned incidents, and that they take responsibility where it should be taken. Truth is the fundamental basis for handling public affairs. As Abraham Lincoln once said: “Let the people know the truth and the country is safe.”

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