Integrity, or the lack of it, pervades this election

By Joseph Wu 吳釗燮  / 

Sun, Jan 01, 2012 - Page 8

Just a few days ago, a weekly journal reported that the Bureau of Investigation has been gathering very detailed information on the campaign activities of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). The report was substantiated by a picture of the form the bureau used for the information-gathering.

If the report by the journal is accurate, the bureau has obviously violated the law governing its establishment and operation. Moreover, it has also violated Ma’s own pledge at the beginning of his term that all intelligence agencies would stay out of domestic politics. In addition, it has also violated one of the most fundamental norms of democracy.

So far, the presidential spokesperson has denied that Ma gave any order to the bureau to conduct such operations. The bureau has also released a statement indicating that its activities are all conducted in accordance with the law and the purpose of the information-gathering is to provide security for the candidates. Nevertheless, crucial questions are yet to be answered: What is the form for, where does the information go and how does this kind of information help a candidate’s security?

One can easily question Ma’s integrity from a very long list of dubious claims. For example, on quite a few occasions, including in the second televised debate between the presidential candidates, Ma has highlighted, with a board in hand, that he has acquired visa-free status from 70 countries, while the DPP added none. What about Japan, which gave Taiwan that status when the DPP was in power?

Ma also said in the debate that the DPP had blocked the Political Party Act (政黨法) from passing the legislature to prevent the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) from resolving the issue of the assets of the richest political party in the world — the opposite is true.

Ma claimed on several occasions that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) made the decision on the content of the so-called “1992 consensus” — Lee called it a flat lie.

Ma also said that he had nearly persuaded former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was nearly persuaded by him to accept the “one China, different interpretations” principle, if it hadn’t been for Tsai — this is definitely not true.

Further back, Ma made a pledge that he would maintain the nation’s defense budget at 3 percent of the GDP, but he has failed that pledge without explanation to the public. He also promised at the beginning of his term that if the performance of the economy did not reach the goals he set during the 2008 campaign, he would cut his salary by half. Taiwanese are still waiting for him to fulfill this promise.

Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Christina Liu (劉憶如), along with the entire KMT establishment, recently accused Tsai of fraud in establishing Yu Chang Biologics Co. However, the document Liu used to make the accusation was found to be fraudulent.

Nearly 40 years ago, former US president Richard Nixon resigned to escape impeachment for the Watergate scandal and lying to the public. The memory still runs fresh in most democracies. The situation involving the bureau, if the report is accurate, is much more serious than what Nixon did, for the bureau would have become part of Ma’s campaign team. If Nixon had to resign for what he did, Taiwanese should expect Ma to at least make an announcement about how the case should be investigated.

Taiwan’s democracy is on the line judging from the evidence involved in the issue of Ma’s integrity. People in democratic Taiwan have the right to ask the nation’s elected leaders to set a high standard in politics.

Joseph Wu is a former Taiwanese representative to the US.