New promises were made, but would they or could they be kept? Ma’s problem with the military became apparent.
On Ma’s side, former minister of defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) resigned and was replaced by Andrew Yang (楊念祖), a close and trusted friend of Ma’s.
However, Yang lasted only six days before also resigning over an unrelated scandal, leaving further uncertainty hanging in the air.
Was this another example of Ma’s poor choice of candidates or did the military not want Yang? Would the next candidate be any more effective at enabling justice to take its course?
The military was now also under close scrutiny.
On the one hand, the suspicious circumstances of Hung’s death raised questions about a culture of bullying in the military.
On the other, some wondered what was so serious about Hung’s “crime” of bringing a camera-equipped mobile phone onto his base, that would bring about his death, especially when he would be discharged from the service in two days. Why were reports that normally take a week to process rushed through to silence him?
Could he have been trying to expose other corruption?
There is no question that a culture of corruption and profiteering in the military’s private fiefdom has long been tolerated in Taiwan and extends back to the days of the KMT one-party state when the military courts were the KMT’s enforcer, used to silence political dissent.
In addition to links to several “assassinations,” looming large in this past is the still unsolved death of Navy captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓) and all the wheeling and dealing from the Lafayette frigate scandal with billions of dollars at stake and some six or seven other questionable deaths unsolved.
With such problems in the top echelons of the military, there could be no question that in such a culture similar issues of corruption would filter down through the ranks.
The question facing Taiwanese is whether someone who has risen to the top via the Peter Principle can solve such a mess? It is a case where strong executive leadership, and not posing, is needed.
Internationally, Ma’s competency and image took a serious hit with last year’s article in The Economist, when a continued lack of positive results earned him the title of “bumbler.”
Added to this is that cleaning up the entrenched military is not the least of Ma’s difficulties.
Problems with the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and the recently signed cross-strait service trade agreement that was rushed through without the proper consultation, examination and approval from the Legislative Yuan, are mounting.
Similarly, Ma’s minions have been trying to push a referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) through the legislature without proper discussion amid growing concern over the plant’s safety.
The vested interests of a few and not the interests of the nation appear to be the culprit in all cases. Taiwan’s Peter Principle president is a lame duck with low approval ratings.
Will he be up to the task?
Taiwan’s voters can only watch, hope, and learn for the future.
Jerome Keating is a commentator in Taipei.