Although President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) relied on artful propaganda and image building to win the presidency in 2008, he has failed to deliver on a slew of promises over the last two years. However, the government has recently had more to worry about than its failure to live up to Ma’s promises, with a series of embarrassing incidents symptomatic of an administration that has time and again shown its management abilities to be severely lacking: police collusion with organized crime, drunken parties in the control tower at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and alleged bribe taking by High Court judges, to mention just a few.
The way these scandals just keep on coming highlights the fundamental rot inside the government and the risk that professional standards could be allowed to wither and die under the Ma administration. All have been dealt with in the same formulaic way — set up an investigation team and transfer the offenders elsewhere. Unfortunately, this approach fails to recognize the underlying problem that ties all these incidents together — a decline in professionalism.
Allegations of sexual harassment of employees by top management at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, allowing the control tower to be turned into a bar and the recent collapse of a passenger gangway have shone a much-needed light on the chaotic goings on at the nation’s No. 1 international airport. Unfortunately, the problem does not stop at the irresponsible behavior of control tower staff, but extends to the government’s inability to handle the issue properly.
The minister and deputy minister of transportation and communications and the head of the Civil Aeronautics Administration initially said investigations had shown the allegations to be inaccurate. When they were later revealed to be true, the government had egg on its face. In the end, the premier had to order that the guilty parties be replaced. This does not inspire much confidence in any future reforms announced by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
The recent shooting of an alleged gangster in Taichung unexpectedly highlighted close ties between police and organized crime. As a direct result, new rules were drawn up, but whether in Taiwan or abroad, it goes without saying that such rules already exist. In other words, the “changes” were a public relations maneuver aimed at deflecting further scrutiny.
The alleged bribe taking by Taiwan High Court judges who changed a 15-year prison sentence for former KMT legislator Ho Chih-hui (何智輝) to not guilty on appeal is another example. We rely on appeals court judges to be defenders of justice, which, if the allegations against them are proven to be true, would make their behavior particularly disappointing. It also takes judicial reform right back to square one, where it has apparently languished all these years. Many judges are still unable to say no to money, women and political temptation and the judicial system offers few ways to monitor or correct their behavior.
A comparison between KMT and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) governments shows few differences when it comes to public policy, but the less experienced DPP was bolder, more decisive and more administratively efficient. The KMT has 50 years of government experience, but it places too much emphasis on relationships and satisfying everyone, which can easily lead to sub-standard candidates and dereliction of duty.
All these examples indicate that the government is starting to unravel. If it fails to make an honest effort to do better and correct the many errors of its ways then the KMT is doing Taiwan a great disservice and will pay an electoral price in the year-end special municipality elections.
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