Thu, Dec 25, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Ma must get hands dirty to clear name

In May 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was voted into office under a banner that trumpeted him as a clean-cut politician with high moral standards. Lambasting his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), as corrupt, Ma pledged to spare no effort in stamping out graft and stressed clean government as one of his core principles.

However, six years into his presidency, the very virtues Ma claimed to pride himself on are being severely questioned, with continuous rumors alleging that he received off-the-book political donations from scandal-ridden Ting Hsin International Group (頂新國際).

First came the claim from political commentator Wu Tsu-chia (吳子嘉), who prior to the Nov. 29 nine-in-one elections accused Ma of having received NT$1 billion (US$31.45 million) from the Wei (魏) family, who own Ting Hsin International, during his presidential re-election campaign in 2012. This was followed by an allegation from media personality Clara Chou (周玉蔻) this week that “Ma’s team” received NT$200 million under the table from the food conglomerate. Chou stepped up her accusation on Tuesday by naming Ma as having personally received the money.

Adding to these simmering allegations was Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元), who last week claimed that the top echelons of the party had asked KMT Taipei mayoral candidate Sean Lien (連勝文) to refrain from bashing Ting Hsin during his campaign. Furthermore, KMT Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) said after the election that Ma could not act freely during the cooking oil scandals involving Ting Hsin because of the donations it had made.

Other than venting hot air through press releases denying Wu and Chou’s allegations, and accusing Chou of smearing his name, Ma so far has not taken strong actions to defend himself.

This lack of action is baffling considering the lengths Ma went to during the “September strife” last year to try to win his showdown with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) over the latter’s alleged influence peddling. Ma at the time not only took to the podium several times to address the issue, he took legal action against Wang, adamant in his bid to strip Wang of his KMT membership for what he termed “tarnishing the party’s image and reputation.”

If Ma went to such lengths to uphold “the party’s image and reputation,” many wonder why he has not taken similarly strong actions against Chou to defend his own image and reputation?

While some have called Chou’s claims into question on the grounds that she has not backed them with evidence, Ma’s inaction in defending his name is not helping — it is instead brewing doubt among the public, all the while spurring skeptical minds who are willing to give Chou the benefit of the doubt, despite her lack of proof.

As Chou said, the crux of the alleged donation lies not in the money itself, but in the “special relations” purportedly established with its receipt, which she claims made Ma the guardian angel, or men shen (門神), of the Wei family.

Amid the snowballing allegations involving his integrity, Ma, as the head of state, should — for the sake of national stability — do something quick to show to the public that he possesses genuine determination to defend his name and put the whole issue to rest.

Ma could come forward and clarify the matter once and for all by calling a news conference, as he did when he was tussling with Wang last year. Or better yet, to truly eliminate any doubts, Ma could, of his own initiative, request that the Special Investigation Division of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office investigate Chou’s claims.

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