Accusations by the Special Investigation Division (SID) of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) alleged involvement in illegal lobbying has, without a doubt, reverberated through Taiwan’s political world.
However, the public will have to wait until investigations into Wang’s case and that of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) conclude before we know whether these accusations will stand, and how damaging they will be.
In addition, the SID itself has been accused of leaking confidential information, illegal telephone surveillance and acting upon political motivations. These allegations, if shown to be accurate, represent a bigger threat to the public’s trust in the judiciary.
The SID has defended its provision of information to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) by saying that Ma himself is not a suspect in the case, and that Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘), who is head of the SID, had not leaked anything — he had simply given the president prior notice of the report.
So who else could have safely been given prior notice? According to the SID’s logic here, it could just as legitimately have given the media prior notice of the report without such a revelation being considered a leak. After all, the press is not a suspect in the case either.
It is no wonder that there are so many exclusives in the media about the progress of ongoing investigations of political cases. It is enough to make one wonder what government officials mean when they say investigations are confidential.
The SID has also said that over the duration of the surveillance of Ker’s communications — he was charged with embezzling funds from Formosa Telecom and aquitted in June — Ker himself was cleared of suspicion, but that the surveillance had revealed that illegal lobbying was going on.
It has spoken much on this issue, but has yet to fully explain its statements. Specifically, why were transcripts of telephone conversations between Wang and Ker distributed to the media, even though Ker was not notified by the court that his communications were to be monitored? To paraphrase Ma, if this is not abuse of surveillance powers, then what is?
Huang’s response to accusations that he is a political hatchet man for Ma was to say that such a label suggested a partisan bias, but that the lobbying case involved politicians from both sides of the political divide, so his revelations should be welcomed by all.
What does that even mean? If you lay the blame at the feet of both sides, the pan-blue camp and the pan-green, with neither fear nor favor, then that means you are not a political hatchet man, and you should receive universal acclaim for doing so?
The imperious Huang had too superficial an interpretation of political hatchet man, one that does not really do the term justice.
A true political hatchet man does more than go berserk — running around cutting down political adversaries. He will also take any opportunity to wield his hatchet to get party colleagues who do not do as they are told — who do not dance to the bossman’s tune — in line, looking to consolidate the central leadership and make sure everything runs smoothly.
From what the SID and Huang have been saying, there is still a long way to go before the public will have even a basic trust in Taiwan’s judiciary.
Chang Kuo-tsai is a former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.
Translated by Paul Cooper