Wed, Apr 14, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Inept civil service is passing the buck

By Kevin Stahl 施達爾

Earlier this month, 67 Academia Sinica researchers jointly published an open letter in the Academia Sinica Weekly (中央研究院週報), giving the Examination Yuan a “C” grade in protest to its inaction on the Civil Service Administrative Neutrality Act (公務人員行政中立法), an inaction that has let the law, highly criticized upon passage last year, continue to harm Taiwan. The agency’s response reminds us of the incompetent public servants portrayed in the Taiwanese film No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti (不能沒有你).

The Examination Yuan’s original draft deprived civil servants of their basic rights. The final version passed by the Legislative Yuan was even more unreasonable thanks to an additional clause that directly restricts academic freedom. This resulted in a strong backlash from the public and academic circles, especially the faculty of Academia Sinica, the direct victims of that clause. Under social pressure, the Examination Yuan told the media it would be pleased to see an amendment passed. Minister of Civil Service Chang Che-chen (張哲琛) and then-Examination Yuan secretary-general Lin Shui-chi (林水吉) both visited Academia Sinica to ask Academia President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠) “for advice.”

Wong led the scholars at Academia Sinica to draft a proposal that suggested a complete amendment to the law. He then presented it to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Examination Yuan. Wong was reportedly given a warm welcome when he met with Examination Yuan President John Kuan (關中) to discuss the matter. However, the agency later blamed the Legislative Yuan for the mistakes and rejected all of Academia Sinica’s suggestions. Since then, nothing has happened.

In an interview on April 2, Examination Yuan Secretary-General Hwang Yea-baang (黃雅榜) said the legislature had destroyed the law due to its amendments and asked Academia Sinica to push legislators to rectify it. The Examination Yuan is the authority charged with overseeing the Civil Service Administrative Neutrality Act. Under public pressure, it first said it would be pleased to see an amendment to the act, and top-level Examination Yuan officials visited Wong for advice. Once public pressure dissipated, it refused to propose an amendment, completely rejected all suggestions and instead passed the buck to the legislature, telling Academia Sinica to contact the legislature itself. Aren’t they behaving just like the glib but irresponsible civil servants portrayed in the movie? With this attitude, how can the president, minister and the Examination Yuan’s secretary-general possibly bring reform to the nation’s lower-level civil servants?

The Examination Yuan officials seem to have forgotten that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is in total control of government power and that it has promised to take corresponding full responsibility for that power. Isn’t it a fact that the political appointees at the Examination Yuan are members of the KMT? And isn’t the KMT the majority party in the legislature? Shouldn’t the Ma administration take full responsibility for the act proposed by the Examination Yuan and passed by the legislature?

If the Examination Yuan sincerely accepts the amendment plan suggested by Academia Sinica, perhaps it would still be able to restore the government’s image that was defiled by the act’s passage. On the other hand, if it tries to once again pass the buck, all the intellectuals who insist on academic freedom will persist in alerting people of the law’s menace. Then, in the next legislative and presidential elections, public opinion, which has been overwhelmingly critical of the law, will make voters aware which party is responsible for the debacle.

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