Tue, Sep 27, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Abolishing reward positions is overdue

By George Huang 黃石城

Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) record in office was spotty at best. He did some good, of course, but there are also things he did that were not quite so good.

His most admirable political achievement, albeit not entirely under his control, was to see, during his second term in office, the mostly superfluous Examination and Control yuans consigned to limbo. He also, and this was more intentional, stopped appointing senior and national policy advisers to the Presidential Office.

It was patently ridiculous that the membership of the two government bodies and the advisory positions, often filled by appointment as a reward for political support and loyalty, should continue to exist in a democratic society.

Prior to Chen’s presidency, the Democratic Progressive Party had repeatedly called for the abolishment of the Examination Yuan, Control Yuan and the positions of senior and national policy advisers to the Presidential Office, but little action was taken. It was not until 2006 — Chen’s sixth year in office — that a boycott of his nominations for the Examination and Control yuans fortuitously suspended their operations and that he abolished the positions of senior and national policy adviser. These eventualities and actions marked a genuine implementation of transitional justice.

The nation carried on for two years without the two bodies having any members, or the Presidential Office having any senior or national policy advisers. The government went on functioning without them, while saving several billion New Taiwan dollars in budgetary allocation. It was the first time such a situation had existed. Chen was alone in having the foresight, resolve, courage and sense of mission to end appointments as a reward for political support. Putting the public’s interest before his own, he took the praiseworthy and admirable decision to allow the positions and institutions to cease to exist. This was Chen’s greatest contribution to Taiwan, and history will give him strong affirmation for having done so.

After Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) succeeded Chen as president in 2008, Ma used the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) legislative majority to push through his own nomination list and reinstate the two branches, as well as the positions of senior and national policy advisers, all of which were leftovers from the old authoritarian system.

And, as before, most of these officials were appointed as rewards for political support and loyalty. In doing so, Ma prioritized his personal interests, while also replicating the practices of the authoritarian past. The appointment of officials as a reward for their political support was just another example of the ignorance and incompetence that quickly sent Ma’s approval rating down to 9 percent, and which doomed the KMT to its eventual downfall.

From just the perspective of their handling of the two branches and the advisers, Chen did a better job than Ma, and their historical legacies would be judged accordingly.

Many people are calling for transitional justice. While the issue of the KMT’s ill-gotten party assets needs to be resolved, the system of patronage and privileged institutions should also undergo transition.

Transitional justice is not optional. These strange institutions do not exist anywhere else in the world. They embody authoritarian systems and special privileges that are harmful to Taiwan’s development, and they should therefore be abolished altogether. Everyone needs to be clear that transitional justice is just what it says it is, not the transfer of power or money.

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