Thu, Mar 31, 2011 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: The case of the missing documents

No matter how much the Presidential Office denies it, its latest allegation against former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government officials has raised the eyebrows of many skeptics who suspect a political motive.

On Tuesday, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration accused 17 former officials who worked at the Presidential Office during the tenure of president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of failing to return documents to the national archives as required by law when Chen’s term ended in 2008. The 17 officials have been referred to the Control Yuan for investigation.

According to Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強), Ma was “livid” when he was informed of the matter and demanded that officials suspected of disregarding the laws — including the National Archives Act (國家檔案法), the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法) and the Decree Governing the Transfer of Documents of Civil Servants (公務人員交代條例) — be dealt with accordingly.

Any violation of government rules should be dealt with in accordance with the law, including when large volumes of official documents — which Lo allegedly said numbered about 36,000 — went missing from the nation’s highest executive body. However, before pointing the finger at former DPP officials and accusing them of dereliction of duty and undermining national interests, has Ma examined his own officials and staffers at the Presidential Office to see whether they are guilty of negligence in the first place?

After all, that it took the Presidential Office nearly three years to realize that a large bulk of official documents were missing speaks volumes on the Presidential Office’s efficiency — or lack thereof.

Add the fact that in April 2008, Chen set up a seven-member handover task force to take charge of the transfer of power procedures, assisting then--president-elect Ma’s team and answering all their queries and requests concerning information on national defense, cross-strait relations and foreign affairs, among others.

Looking at media reports at the time, these handover meetings were carried out in an amicable atmosphere with no complaints from either side. Why wait three years to raise questions about allegedly missing official documents?

With the DPP presidential primary just getting under way, the timing of the Presidential Office’s allegations implicating senior DPP politicians — including former premier and DPP presidential hopeful Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) — is suspect.

The next presidential election is just around the corner and there are no signs that anyone within the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would try to challenge Ma.

According to KMT sources, Ma has begun to prepare for his re-election bid. Hopefully, Ma and his party would seek to win over voters’ hearts and minds through sound governance and an honest campaign instead of resorting to “dirty tricks.” It would be utterly despicable if Ma were to turn the office of the president into a personal campaign against the DPP by trying to tarnish the reputation and image of his political opponents.

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