Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Buzzwords obstruct justice and fairness

By James Wang 王景弘

The corruption Scandal involving former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) is undoubtedly a serious criminal case. However, the number of questionable phrases, such as “damage control,” “stopping the hemorrhaging,” “removing the cancer” and “creating a firewall,” surrounding the debate is criminal in itself.

If someone is wounded, doctors will first try stop the hemorrhaging to make sure the patient does not bleed to death.

When someone has a tumor, doctors will cut it out.

In business or in politics, when a business model is flawed or someone says something daft, damage control is essential.

Firefighters will create a firewall to contain a fire at its source, just as computer programmers will set up firewalls in order to keep hackers at bay.

These terms, all taken from diverse fields, have positive connotations and are used in legitimate ways. None of them should be used in reference to the judicial process. Justice should be handled according to the law and factual evidence and any restrictions on this, or political interference, is wholly inappropriate.

Until the prosecutors conclude their investigation, senior government officials should refrain from such pronouncements. This kind of behavior, these attempts to mask the situation, impair the smooth functioning of the law.

When former US president Richard Nixon attempted to cover up the Watergate scandal, he was found guilty of obstructing the process of law and was forced to resign.

The sexual abuse scandals that have rocked both the sports world and the Catholic Church were made exponentially worse by the complicity and cover-ups of the people involved and when the relevant authorities failed to speak up when they knew what was happening.

Pennsylvania State University football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was last year found guilty of sexually assaulting boys in his care over the course of 15 years. During the trial, it was discovered that the head coach, the athletics director and the school president were all aware of his actions and yet did nothing. All were fired and a statue of the world-renowned head coach was removed.

Following an investigation into the scandal, the National Collegiate Athletic Association decided to impose a US$60 million fine, a four-year post-season ban and negation of all victories from the period in which the abuse was going on.

The cardinal of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia was found guilty of covering up for priests who had sexually assaulted children and for lying about their crimes in public. At the trial, the presiding judge berated the priest, telling him that he knew what was the right thing to do, but chose not to do it.

There can be no excuse for concealing the truth in any judicial case. It is wrong and illegal.

Whatever clever metaphor one uses, intervention in the Lin corruption case obstructs the process of the law and implies complicity in the corruption.

James Wang is a media commentator.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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