Fri, Sep 25, 2015 - Page 8 News List

EasyCard crisis needed honesty

By Chen Wei-chung 陳偉忠

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) gave EasyCard Corp chairman Tai Chi-chuan (戴季全) a plum position in his administration to reward his service as Ko’s Internet adviser during last year’s mayoral election campaign. Throughout the furor over EasyCard using the images of a Japanese adult video actress, Ko’s and Tai’s crisis management skills have been on display along with the mayor’s attempts to save his close friend, which led to Tai digging himself into an even deeper hole and created a mess that will be difficult to clean up.

Be it a president or a local government leader, a politician’s electoral advisers often become intermingled with civil servants upon winning the election. When hiring staff, politicians usually ask whether the candidate is “one of them,” giving little consideration to their professional experience, principles or ethics. This leads to the phenomenon of close friends and family riding on the coattails of a politician’s success.

During elections, greater emphasis is placed on the “organization” and the “message” than on a candidate’s political views. Advisers advocate using strong emotions and an uncompromising strategy, because, in the end, the only thing that matters is winning. Advisers should not be confused with civil servants; they are two entirely different animals.

How deeply is Ko implicated in the EasyCard scandal? In December last year, Ko said for the first time that he had previously seen details of EasyCard’s business plan. This confirms the revelations of a former employee that EasyCard’s business plans are always sent to the Taipei mayor for approval.

However, Ko, claiming he is innocent, said, “The Taipei City Government cannot control EasyCard Corp,” and that “the Taipei City Government is merely EasyCard Corp’s largest shareholder, it does not report to the company.”

This is playing fast and loose with the truth.

According to EasyCard spokesperson Liao Tai-hsiang (廖泰祥), before deciding to sell the new cards over the telephone, the company held a meeting with Ko, during which the principles for issuing the cards were discussed and agreed upon. Liao said it was reported to Ko that the method of sale would be taking pre-orders over the telephone.

Throughout the whole incident, Ko’s statements where he said, “We will make changes at points where mistakes were made,” and “the dispute over one card has wasted an inordinate amount of public resources,” as well as Tai’s talk of “the public interest” and statement that “the issue of the cards should be temporarily postponed,” but that “sales should still go ahead” have all been a succession of lies.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) suspects Ko and Tai of having colluded with each other. Perhaps the suspicion cannot be brushed aside as a baseless accusation.

Before speaking to Taipei City councilors, Ko gave a speech at the National Chiao Tung University in Hsinchu, during which he said that he had made two mistakes in the EasyCard crisis:

“First, if I were able to start over, I would not have left EasyCard Corp chairman Tai Chi-chuan alone in charge of the matter. Second, the card incident has made Tai reflect upon his own actions. He frequently says the collective intelligence of the many surpasses that of one individual’s, however, the collective wisdom of the many is not always sensible, sometimes there will be collective blind spots.”

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