President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration are incapable of governing the nation. Bringing about such a situation is in line with Ma’s pursuit of a dubious historical legacy: Destroying government functionality the way he does would indeed be an unprecedented political achievement.
That former deputy minister of culture Vicki Chiu (邱于芸) was fired for sending a post office evidentiary letter to Minister of Culture Hung Meng-chi (洪孟啟) shows how dysfunctional the government has become. Prior to that, Hung had submitted his resignation — albeit rejected — after suspicions that the ministry might have used the national coffers to “subsidize” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators. Chiu set a precedent in Taiwan by sending the evidentiary letter to Hung to profess her innocence in connection with an internal investigation into information leaks and influence peddling.
Chiu said that she sent the letter to protect herself, but surely a deputy minister should be able to speak directly to her minister, so why the need to send an evidentiary letter? Relations between the two had clearly deteriorated to the point where they avoided direct communications. If a deputy no longer has her superior’s trust, she should make preparations to leave, as subordinates protesting their superiors runs counter both to administrative ethics and workplace discipline. If she sends an evidentiary letter, which is the last step before resorting to legal action, she might just as well resign immediately.
After Hung’s resignation was rejected, Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) became aware of the conflict in the ministry. He had no choice but to make it known during a question-and-answer session at the legislature that this was inappropriate. Still, he did nothing, as if he had forgotten that Chiu and Hung were political appointees and that things would only deteriorate if he did not interfere.
It is not only the Cabinet that is in chaos: Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) has issued two press releases calling on the Control Yuan not to give in to populism, in protest at the body’s decision to issue a correction order against the Ministry of Justice after former Tainan County council speaker Wu Chien-pao (吳健保) and former Ruifang Township (瑞芳) mayor Liao Hsiu-hsiung (廖秀雄) skipped bail and escaped after being found guilty by the courts in two separate corruption cases.
When Control Yuan member Wang Mei-yu (王美玉), who was in charge of the investigation that resulted in the reprimand, asked seven questions to Luo, the Ministry of Justice responded by issuing another press release, saying that Control Yuan members “should maintain objectivity and a cool head when criticizing state affairs.” It also said that if the body pursued populism, it would forfeit its neutrality and shake the belief of civil servants, which, in turn, would scare off talented people.
That the justice minister issued two press releases to protest a decision by the Control Yuan shows that she lacks an understanding of constitutional politics and that her political wisdom is wanting. The Constitution requires the Control Yuan to supervise the government, and investigations and corrections are not matters of “criticizing state affairs” — it is about supervising the government and setting officials straight.