The recent news about army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) and how he may have been subjected to inappropriate corporal punishment — placed in solitary confinement leading to death from heat exhaustion — has drawn a lot of concern and criticism from the public.
While a list reprimanding those who may have been involved in the young soldier’s death has been released and while Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) has apologized over the matter, social media and Hung’s family have expressed doubts about what really occurred and believe that the Ministry of National Defense has not released a full picture of the truth. The lack of trust in the current investigation means that the investigation has descended into a situation in which everyone involved is saying something different.
The government should therefore form a special cross-specialization, cross-departmental investigation committee or task force to increase public trust. There are three main reasons.
First, the government needs to save the image of the military which has been seriously damaged by recent reports. The ministry or perhaps the Control Yuan must take concrete action.
Second, the government needs to stop the public from developing an impression that military officials engage in cover-ups. The current investigation is being carried out by people from within the ministry itself. Because the investigators, the process and its content have not been made transparent and investigators are only selectively releasing some of their findings, it is little wonder that the public feels ministry officials are covering for each other.
Third, the government needs to win back the public’s trust. For a credible investigation, the committee members should include representatives from the public and other specialized organizations that could work together in uncovering the truth about this case.
While the investigation committee has made initial inroads into the case, the public does not accept or trust the findings so far and this has caused speculation to arise. While a certain amount of confidentiality is always involved in national military affairs, to dispel people’s doubts, the truth must be explained to the public showing that the ministry is committed to reform. This is also the only way for the military to keep its image, power and competitiveness intact. If a special investigation task force was set up to look into this particular case, one that also looked into the faults that exist in the military’s management system, the military would be presented with an opportunity to show how they are focused on reform to improve aspects of the military system that most need it. This is the only hope that the national military has for a better future.
Perhaps the family of the deceased wants justice and systemic reform to prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again.
Yang Yung-nane is a professor of political science and director of the Graduate Institute of Political Economy at National Cheng Kung University.
Translated by Drew Cameron