The decision by the Presidential Office to file a criminal lawsuit against a man who allegedly crashed his gravel truck into the Presidential Office last month and seek compensation for the damage reveals the extent of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) indifference to public displeasure over his administration. It is an unwise move that will create more distance between the government and its people.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday against Chang Te-cheng (張德正), a truck driver who reportedly drove a 35-tonne truck up the front steps of the building and crashed into the gate on Jan. 25, is the first criminal lawsuit filed by the Presidential Office during Ma’s time in office. It seeks NT$3 million (US$98,972) in compensation to cover repair costs.
In defending the legal battle against a civilian, Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said Chang should take responsibility for the damage he has caused. The Presidential Office building is a monument and it would be unfair for taxpayers to pay for the repairs.
Resolving issues via legal means is Ma’s well-known attitude as a rigid legalist who takes pride in always acting in accordance with the law. However, he has focused only on his own interests and interpreted the law selectively to suit his purposes.
During his terms as Taipei mayor, he interpreted the law to avoid an embezzlement conviction in the case against him regarding the abuse of his mayoral special allowance. As president, he has insisted on the preposterous interpretation of the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution that includes China in the territory of the ROC, while seeking closer cross-strait ties under the so-called “1992 consensus.”
The lawsuit manifests Ma’s failure to understand the public’s frustration with his administration and only raises tensions between them.
The 41-year-old truck driver said there were no political motives behind the truck crash and that his hardships in life were the main reason behind the incident. The Presidential Office’s lawsuit and the compensation request will no doubt put additional heavy economic burdens on him.
On the same day that the Presidential Office filed the lawsuit, prosecutors detained another man suspected of intending to crash his car into the Presidential Office to express his discontent over military injustice.
As part of the Presidential Office’s efforts to improve security around the building, it is considering closing Ketagalan Boulevard, which leads to the building, to avoid similar incidents.
It is in no one’s interest for the Presidential Office to wage a legal war against members of the public or block the roads leading to the building, especially when Ma’s dismal approval rating has failed to rise.
Ma’s approval rating hit a new low of 9.2 percent last year due to poor government policies and his ongoing political feud with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) within the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). In the latest public opinion poll last month, 74.7 percent of respondents said they were not satisfied with Ma’s performance, a record-high disapproval rating for Ma since he took office in May 2008.
The truck crash reflects people’s dissatisfaction with the government for failing to make their lives better. Ma and his administration need to pursue self-reflection, rather than place blame for the incident on the people and avoid responsibilities.