A good national leader should have the best interests of the public at heart, heed citizens’ grievances, aim to alleviate their hardships and be responsive to their needs and expectations.
“Government officials should feel the public’s pain,” President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has often said as he lectures officials on the importance of minding citizens’ opinions, listening to them and reflecting on how the government can improve people’s livelihoods.
Regrettably, it appears that Ma’s actions do not match his words and that his policy agenda seems to prioritize something other than Taiwanese’s welfare.
If the president attaches as much importance to public perception as he claims to, he would take note of the latest survey released by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research and offer a public apology for failing so miserably to live up to the public’s expectations.
According to the survey, 75.2 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with Ma’s performance, putting the president’s approval rating at just 12.8 percent, with Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) faring only marginally better at 17.8 percent. The poll also found that nine of the 15 ministers in Jiang’s Cabinet have approval ratings of no more than 10 percent.
In light of the ongoing tainted oil scandal — the result of excessively profit-driven food manufacturers and inadequate government oversight — if Ma genuinely empathizes with the nation’s citizens, he should offer a second public apology for the series of food scares that have occurred under his mandate and damaged not only consumer confidence in state inspection mechanisms, but also Taiwan’s international reputation.
If Ma really wanted to “feel the public’s pain,” he would have taken the many opportunities he has been given to hear what anti-government protesters have to say, instead of shutting them out by deploying police and using dove-catching nets to block the shoes they throw at him. It appears that none of these issues warrant the president’s concern, since he has so far either kept quiet about them or shunned demonstrators.
Ma’s silence and lack of action indicate an incapability to solve problems, or worse, apathy. By contrast, the repeated calls he has made — first in his capacity as president and again on Wednesday in his capacity as KMT chairman at the weekly meeting of the party’s Central Standing Committee — for the legislature to ratify the cross-strait service trade pact lead to the disturbing implication that Ma only cares about matters that are related to China.
Ma was quoted as saying during the meeting that the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee would finish holding the remaining six pubic hearings on the trade pact in three weeks, as opposed to the original plan to hold one session every two weeks, which was the consensus reached during inter-party caucus negotiations.
“What’s the rush?” many people are asking.
The president’s remarks indicate not only an infringement of the legislature’s authority, but also led many to wonder whether he is toeing China’s line by trying to expedite the pact’s ratification, despite the lack of transparency that marred its signing earlier this year.
Ma’s haste to push the trade deal through also disregards that the majority of the public remain ill-informed about its contents, let alone its potential impact and the extent to which the nation and people’s livelihoods will be affected by its implementation.
In striking contrast with his silence in addressing the public’s dissatisfaction with his performance and the food scandal, Ma’s loud, repeated calls for the legislature to clear the cross-strait deal come across to many as him caring only about what he perceives as scoring points on the cross-strait front, while disregarding the needs of Taiwanese.