Wed, Jul 18, 2012 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Government divided on Vanessa Shih

A Control Yuan report on the conduct of a former representative to Singapore, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vanessa Shih (史亞平), has reportedly concluded that she was responsible for a “serious dereliction of duty” in her dealings with the Singaporean government, and former representative office division chief Chang Shih-jui (張詩瑞) was responsible for “a major violation of law.” However, since their recall, both Shih and Chang have been promoted in an apparent conflict between the positions of the Control Yuan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The sensitive nature of the report’s contents, which were believed to be potentially damaging to Taiwan-Singapore ties and therefore the national interest, reportedly led to the decision to keep it confidential.

Diplomatic envoys are political appointments responsible for the state of relations between two countries. It seems that different government departments have evaluated Shih’s performance in Singapore very differently. Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) has said that Shih’s performance was outstanding, and that Taiwan-Singapore relations had improved during her tenure. On her return to Taiwan, her appointment as a deputy minister was announced and some in diplomatic circles were saying she would make vice minister before long.

There are definite signs from the Singapore side that all was not well from their perspective, with rumors of calls from high up to have her replaced, suggesting her diplomatic efforts had not been so successful. Also, that relations between Taiwan and Singapore have improved since Shih’s recall suggest the envoy herself may have been the problem.

The Control Yuan report said the representative office was guilty of “serious dereliction of duty and a major violation of law.”

Local media have also reported that the situation Control Yuan investigators discovered in Singapore was even more serious than the report made out. Apparently, promises were made to Singaporean officials that certain facts would not be made public, again suggesting the actual situation was worse than has been revealed. And when the Control Yuan finally published the report, a decision was made to classify it as confidential. That those involved were neither impeached nor disciplined has led the press to speculate the case was either too sensitive or that orders had come from on high preventing the Control Yuan from making the report public.

The apparent conflict between the stances of the Control Yuan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent rumors flying. Some say that for Shih, a favorite of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), it had been plain sailing up till now, going from deputy representative to Australia to minister of the Government Information Office (GIO) to representative to Singapore, and so she was able to be promoted to deputy minister despite the problems in Singapore. This argument also holds that she is destined for higher positions still, and that Yang had to defend her. All of this demonstrates the non-meritocratic culture within the ministry.

The different stances on this issue among the Control Yuan, the ministry and the Presidential Office have created a confusing and unfortunate political situation. It has not only put future ties with Singapore in jeopardy, but added to criticisms that the Control Yuan refuses to tackle the important issues. Not only that, it is also unfair to Shih herself, for it is possible her conduct really was blameless. As it stands, she will have the stain of the Control Yuan’s “serious dereliction of duty” evaluation on her career now and into the future. The government should clear up this confusion and stop continuing to tarnish the names of the Control Yuan, the ministry, the Presidential Office and of Shih herself.

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