These times of protest are times to try the soul. However, they are also times that people need to remember when Nov. 29 comes around. With the cross-strait service trade agreement, Taiwanese are basically being asked by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to buy the proverbial “pig in a poke.” Ma tells the wary people that his unseen and unexamined black box trade agreement is their salvation.
However, it is not known whether the deal contains the promised “pig.” Without examination, it might be a cat, a rat or even many snakes, but still Ma insists that the Legislative Yuan forgo its duty and give his “unseen pig” a rubber stamp. This is the first point the people should remember.
Society also needs to start connecting the dots. They need to remember that this is Ma, the man who has lived by spin-doctors and image-makers. He is a man who has consistently replaced unfulfilled promises with more vague and grandiose, yet unfulfilled, promises, from the infamous “6-3-3” to the golden decade and the “unseen pig.”
This is the man who has earned numerous nicknames that range from Ma the Incompetent and Ma the Bumbler to 9 Percent Ma. This “9 percent man” insisted that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) should step down when his approval rating reached an embarrassing 18 percent. It seems that he holds himself exempt from such rules.
The people must remember that Ma is a man who likes to rule from a distance and has always found someone to either face the consequences or take the fall for him when mistakes are made or crimes are committed.
Over the years, this practice has included a jailed secretary who placed nearly a half a million US dollars in Ma’s bank account “without Ma’s knowledge” when he was Taipei mayor, his government’s asleep-at-the-wheel response to Typhoon Morakot and the recent resignation of former prosecutor-general Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘), who released “unrequested” classified information that Ma used in his attempt to oust Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
Ma is also the man who after his attempted character assassination of Wang then had the gall to ask him to take full responsibility for clearing the Legislative Yuan of those protesting the president’s secret dealings.
That the initial service trade negotiations had to be done in private is understandable, but Ma’s insistence that the Legislative Yuan subsequently ignore its task of review and rubber stamp the agreement unseen is unacceptable.
Why should the black box not be opened and its contents examined before the final approval? Ma and his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have a majority in the Legislative Yuan that can eventually approve it, so why is he afraid to have it reviewed clause-by-clause when he can be sure of getting what he wants passed? What does he want to hide?
The answer to this becomes apparent when one considers the thing the protesters consider to be most at risk: their future. The potential impact on their livelihood is also the reason for the recent protests. It would be one thing for the Legislative Yuan to give a quick rubber stamp approval and make the pact a fait accompli before the amount of the damage could be realized. However, it would be a whole different matter for the people to see the country being given away industry-by-industry as the Legislative Yuan reviews each item and the KMT uses its legislative majority to approve Ma’s unseen pig.
The “Sunflower” protests had been nonviolent until Ma refused to meet with the protestors or even to acknowledge what it was they wished to discuss. True to form, the president sent a representative with no power to act, namely Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺). Immediately after Jiang heard the students concerns and demands, he admitted that he did not have any authority to respond, only Ma had that authority. Why go through the pretense of sending a man who could do nothing?
Over it all looms the shadow of a deceitful, Quisling-like character trait that one struggles to put one’s finger on, and this is what the “Sunflower Movement” has exposed on a nationwide scale. Now more than ever, Ma is revealed as a stubborn, distanced man who constantly tries to fit square pegs into round holes and apparently lives in a fantasy world in which he leads a one-party state. He and his spin-doctors claim that he has completed more than 90 percent of his campaign promises and that the relationships between Taiwan and the US and China are better than they have ever been.
If all this is so, why is it that after six years as president the economy is poor and the nation is in such dire straits? This situation has not been one day in the making; it is the result of six years of rule by one man and one party, the KMT, which has always controlled the Legislative Yuan.
The protests are non-partisan, and have to be to have credibility. If they had been organized by one of the opposition political parties, their motivation would easily be questioned. Once the protests are finished, voters must take responsibility and remember them. These actions must not be in vain. The conflict has arisen because of one man and one party. Ma has dual roles as president and KMT chairman, and his party has stretched its rules to allow him to remain as chairman.
The nation is stuck with 9 Percent Ma for the next two years unless it can find grounds for impeachment, but on Nov. 29, the people can act. Significant change will only come through the ballot box.
Jerome Keating is a commentator in Taipei.