Sometimes it is truly amazing just how far a politician can change their stance on a particular issue.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) provides an example of just such a case as his administration tries to persuade Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers to support an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) that would ease import restrictions on beef containing residue of the livestock feed additive ractopamine.
Saying relaxing the ban is a prerequisite for the resumption of negotiations with the US on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), Ma yesterday stressed the alleged grave consequences for economic and trade liberalization should the bill fail again to clear the legislature in next month’s extra three-day session.
Politicians may like to think the public is gullible and that people have short-term memories, but the truth is that voters are neither as forgetful nor as naive as politicians think. However, many do recall just how adamantly Ma opposed relaxing the import ban on meat products containing ractopamine residue in the past.
In August 2007, then-presidential candidate Ma issued a statement criticizing the then-Democratic Progressive Party administration’s plan to relax the ban on US pork imports containing residue of leanness-enhancing drugs. Calling the proposed lifting of the ban “unacceptable,” Ma said Taiwanese have different eating habits from people in the US and they consume more internal organs, where the drugs’ residue is especially high, so therefore the government must keep its ban in place.
“Whether looking at it from the perspective of 23 million people’s health or the domestic pork industry, which is worth NT$60 billion [US$2 billion today] ... I absolutely cannot accept the ban on imported pork containing leanness-enhancing drugs being lifted,” candidate Ma said, stressing it was the government’s duty to safeguard the health of the people.
What changed Ma’s mind — the passage of time or the pressures of being head of state? Could it be a case of short-term memory loss? A case of campaign trail posturing? Or worse — a blatant disregard of what he said in the past now that he has been twice voted into the Presidential Office and no longer needs to please the voters?
Perhaps he is just opposed to such drug residue in pork and pork products because they are consumed in much greater quantities in Taiwan than beef and beef by-products are? A question, so to speak, of what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander?
Thanks to the Internet, politicians’ past speeches can easily be unearthed online.
Ma’s U-turn on meat imports containing ractopamine has led many to question his credibility. However, more important than the issue of Ma’s credibility is an even more grave matter — whether the health of Taiwanese will suffer as a result of the government’s disregard for their wellbeing.
With the extraordinary legislative session still a month away, it is to be hoped that Ma will use the time to reflect on his former stance, come to his senses and understand the true meaning of a government’s responsibility to its people.