Wed, Oct 03, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan needs Furies of its own

By Jerome Keating

In Greek drama, the concept of justice was never lacking. The goddesses most prominent in serving justice were the Erinyes, or the Furies by their Roman name; their task was to pursue those guilty of crimes, especially the murder of kin.

Yet while the Furies were relentless and horrifying in this pursuit, their primary task remained to serve justice no matter how far back the crimes went.

The play Oedipus Rex, for example, begins with Oedipus still proudly basking in how he saved Thebes from the riddle of the Sphinx, but the city now suffers from a new plague.

This plague is the result of an unsolved murder, that of the city’s former king, Laius. Justice must be served and Oedipus to his chagrin eventually discovers his guilt.

His peace with the Furies comes in the subsequent play Oedipus at Colonus.

In the Oresteia trilogy, the protagonist, Orestes, also finds himself pursued by the Furies. He had faced an irreconcilable dilemma where he had to either kill the person who murdered his father, Agamemnon (his mother, Clytemnestra), or let his father’s murder go unavenged.

What has this to do with Taiwan?

Ghost Month is past, but Taiwan continues to be haunted by the ghosts of its own past. Justice has not yet been served. Taiwan remains in need of its own Furies.

The two chief areas where Taiwan has yet to achieve justice are the unsolved crimes found in transitional justice and the restoration of stolen state assets.

These crimes date back to the end of World War II and the 228 Incident in 1947. They continue through the subsequent decades till the disbanding of the Garrison Command in 1992, along with the forced retirement of those that had been “permanently” elected to the legislature in 1947.

Those were the years of the White Terror, martial law and the one-party state rule of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Taiwan suffered greatly in those decades and many families were destroyed. True, there are some monuments; and there have been apologies along with some few claims that have been recognized, but without full disclosure of all records and accountability, justice cannot be served.

Countless family lives had been disrupted and ruined, and untold property was seized and acquired.

One has to only look back at all those who were executed as well as the countless people who spent years on Green Island serving time for trivial or assumed offenses against the state, to see the problem.

Two blatant questions stand out: How can there have been so many crimes with so few criminals? And how could there be so much theft with so few thieves?

The nation begrudgingly admits that there were crimes, but many still resist admitting that there were criminals involved and it avoids exposing them.

Similarly, in the matter of stolen state assets, untold theft is acknowledged, but few references spell out the names of the thieves and the families that profited.

It has been a quarter of a century since the lifting of martial law in 1987 and the first free elections in 1992 in this multi-party state. Yet so little justice has been achieved.

One could try to brush some of this off by saying that some of the guilty and complicit perpetrators of the White Terror crimes are dead. That may be true, but their profiteering families are alive and they enjoy the wealth and positions gleaned from that past.

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