EDITORIAL: Now is the time for Ma to act

Thu, Jul 05, 2012 - Page 8

Eight days into the storm unleashed by an allegation last week that then-Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) demanded more money from a businessman whom he had allegedly previously accepted a bribe from, daily headlines continue to reveal ugly details suggesting greed and brazenness on the part of politicians.

Lin has since stepped down from the government post, admitted to accepting NT$63 million (US$2.1 million) in 2010 when he was a lawmaker to help the businessman secure a slag treatment contract from a subsidiary of state-controlled China Steel Corp, been taken into custody and expelled from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Meanwhile, both President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) expressed regrets over Lin’s alleged involvement in the corruption scandal, with Ma adding that he felt “apologetic.”

Much regret indeed, as Lin’s implication in the case comes as a slap in the face for Ma, who has stressed clean government as one of his core principles.

While Lin would have to face his share of possible judicial responsibility on the graft charges, it appears that none from the Ma government have so far stepped forward to take their fair share of political responsibility, other than venting hot air about the government’s continued quest for clean government and that integrity remains the core value and the most basic moral standard for civil servants.

In an apparent bid to show their determination to eradicate government corruption, it was announced that an anti-corruption seminar will be held this weekend for all Cabinet-level and high-ranking officials to re-educate them on the importance of integrity.

Granted, the seminar might sound like a good start to remind officials of their roles as public servants, but Ma must remember that good intentions alone are not enough.

There is more he could do to illustrate his determination in upholding a clean government.

For one, shouldn’t he seriously consider the call from some in the KMT Central Standing Committee who yesterday urged him to step down as KMT chairman? Ma could lecture the officials all he wants about integrity and good morals, but if he is truly sincere in “feeling apologetic,” as he has claimed, resigning from the KMT chairmanship is the least he could do to shoulder his share of political responsibility and demonstrate his sincerity to the Taiwanese public.

Then there is the image and health functions of the government as a whole. Rather than holding a merely symbolic seminar which is likely to be passed as yet another setting for more empty rhetoric and promises, Ma could easily demonstrate his resolve in stamping out government corruption in one simple directive if he is determined.

According to the audio recordings of Lin’s conversation with the businessman during which Lin was apparently asking for a bribe, Lin was heard saying: “There are a number of others whom I have to deal with.” In other words, it is possible that more people may have been involved.

Against the backdrop of similar scandals involving state-run companies, such as Taiwan Power Co and CPC Corp, Taiwan, Ma, if he is truly serious about combating corruption, would have issued a stern directive instructing that an immediate thorough investigation be conducted into these companies.

Wouldn’t such a move yield more concrete results than presenting a passive seminar?

Amid the snowballing scandal involving one of the highest government officials, all eyes are now on Ma and whether he, as the head of state, can practice what he preaches and show to his people that he possesses a genuine determination to eradicate government corruption.