Fri, Aug 03, 2012 - Page 8

Time to do the right thing

As an independent observer of Taiwanese politics, I am concerned over the health of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) after reading recent reports that indicated that he had developed post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Rather than instructing the Ministry of Justice to carefully monitor Chen’s health (“Monitor Chen Shui-bian’s health: Ma,” Aug. 1, page 3), President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should release his predecessor on medical parole if the ministry’s check-up revealed findings similar to those of the former president’s medical team.

Regardless of how one gauges Chen’s performance during his eight-year term, Ma and his administration must acknowledge that the former president is first and foremost a citizen of the Republic of China who should be entitled to equal and fair access to medical treatment at all times during his prison term.

If Chen’s health has indeed deteriorated over the past four years and he faces the possibility of dying within the next four years, the humane thing to do would be to release Chen on parole so that he can seek adequate and comfortable treatment.

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, there is no denying that Chen has done a lot of good for Taiwan. For instance, when he was mayor of Taipei, which is now considered an Asian holiday destination, Chen cracked down on vice activities like illegal gambling and prostitution.

During his eight-year presidential term, Chen enhanced the identity and branding of Taiwan. Chen’s administration also renamed several state-owned or private enterprises to bear the name “Taiwan.” Because of Chen, “Taiwan” is now printed on the passports of millions of Taiwanese.

I am in no position to judge the legacy of Chen, but like many other concerned Taiwanese and foreign observers, I humbly request that Ma consider placing Chen on medical parole. Chen is one who loves Taiwan and has done a lot for the country.

I believe many observers will agree that Taiwan has become more polarized since Ma assumed the presidency in May 2008. Ma’s performance to date has yet to convince many Taiwanese that he would be the man to chart their future and destiny. Even the pro-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) cable news channel TVBS recently reported that Ma’s approval rating had plunged to its lowest level ever — just 15 percent.

As president, Ma should be magnanimous toward his former rivals and a decision to release Chen on medical parole is the first step he should take in reuniting the divided nation. As many will agree, Chen’s release would be based purely on humanitarian grounds and has nothing to do with political or judicial reasons.

The ball is now in Ma’s court. His decision will either help him regain trust and confidence, which many Taiwanese used to have in him, or it could alienate him even further from ordinary Taiwanese people.

For the sake of both Taiwan and Chen, I hope Ma does the right, and sensible, thing.

Jason Lee