The public, already incensed by army corporal Hung Chung-chiu’s (洪仲丘) death, is up in arms over the government’s handling of the matter and officials’ attempts to protect those responsible.
Finally, the army’s commanding general was forced into issuing a public apology and the callous major in charge of Hung’s brigade and his company’s commander have been detained, in a victory for the public over bureaucrats.
The public no longer trusts the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Ordinary people have to stand up for themselves when wronged. A palpable sense of frustration toward the government is now spreading throughout the country.
The Ma administration is puzzling: Blind to the plight of ordinary Taiwanese, it feels it is doing a superb job despite its low ratings in opinion polls. Its ineptitude is boundless: Give it a minor crisis and it will turn it into a major one; give it a good thing and it will make it rotten.
The tears Ma shed several days ago when campaigning for another term as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman were not because of Hung’s senseless death. The tears were for himself, because he perceives himself as striving to do the right thing, working for the happiness of the majority, but receiving little recognition. Unable to empathize with ordinary people, the thought of the public failing to understand him is agonizing enough to bring tears to his eyes. Ma is about as out of touch with the public as it is possible to be.
One example of the government’s ineptitude are the food scares that have taken place over the past two years. The administration has apparently done little to improve the way it handles such matters. First, it pursued only the end sellers of the dangerous products, only investigating further up the supply chain after bowing to public pressure. As a result, the plasticizers scare was drawn out over three months, while the starch scandal is still ongoing and has even extended to the nation’s food export markets.
Not only is the Ma administration totally useless at crisis management, it exacerbates any crisis it deals with and continues to insist that it is right.
Yet, the most curious thing about this government is its remarkable ability to commit mistakes. After two years of talks, it finally inked a cross-strait service trade pact. However, it has since been revealed that at no point did the government consult with the local businesses that are to be most affected by the agreement. The degree of the government’s arrogance has been made evident through its refusal to accept criticism or be open and transparent. Mounting public indignation over the pact has resulted, with the opposition parties warning that it will cause a rout of Taiwan’s service industries.
The service trade pact was a chance for the government to earn points, but still it managed to come under fire. The ineptitude of this administration has seen contained issues take on a national scale, molehills turn into mountains, problems conjured out of thin air and terrific ideas implemented terribly. The public bears the brunt of this inefficiency, while the president, indifferent to their plight, cries.
It is little wonder people are comparing Ma to Chongzhen (崇禎), the last Ming emperor, who was convinced that he was right, all the way up to the night he committed suicide with the enemy at the gates. He wrote in his suicide note: “I am insufficient in virtues and weak in conducts, hence the heavenly punishment, and the ministers also failed me.”
Ma still believes the public misunderstand him, that he has done nothing wrong and that it is his ministers that have failed him. With a president like this, what recourse do Taiwanese have?
Julian Kuo is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Paul Cooper