History destroyed by paper shredders

By Chin Heng-wei 金恒煒  / 

Tue, Mar 13, 2018 - Page 8

After much ado and twists and turns, something of the truth might finally be emerging regarding the National Women’s League. It appears that former league chairwoman Cecilia Koo (辜嚴倬雲) is most concerned not about the huge amount of questionable donations that the league made to veterans, but with the 170 boxes of documents and accounting records that were removed from the league’s premises.

In a video recorded in the US last week, Koo said that the league’s assets should be donated in their entirety to the state.

However, this suggestion did not impress league chairwoman Joanna Lei (雷倩), who replied by saying that Koo’s proposal of donating all of the league’s assets was “suicide,” tantamount to “dissolving the league” and “clearly a plot concocted by other members of the Koo family.”

Tellingly, Lei said that this conspiracy must be the main contributing factor to the “major turnaround [in] the truth about the situation between December and January.”

As chairwoman, Lei appears to be somewhat divorced from the league’s core members and while some say Lei is affiliated with the league’s “pacifist” faction, the division has less to do with the current situation than it does with the difference between being an insider or outsider: Although a member of the league, Lei paradoxically remains an outsider.

The “major turnaround” that Lei mentioned in her March 7 response to Koo refers to overthrowing the league’s decision to sign an administrative contract.

Lei on Dec. 29 signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) and Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee Chairman Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正), an act that was generally considered to lay the foundation for signing a formal administrative contract, which would lead to the league’s voluntary dissolution and the donation of most of its assets.

However, less than two months later, the decision was overthrown in a league meeting, with more than half of the members voting against signing an administrative contract with the government.

The league’s reason for not signing the contract was pompously stated, with Standing Committee member Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) saying at a news conference one day prior to the meeting: “The league is neither a KMT affiliate, nor funded by illegitimately obtained party assets.”

The league clearly intends to defy the Ministry of the Interior and the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee.

In a Facebook post, Lei compared the league to mere “small fry,” being powerless to resist the “big fish” inside the league.

In Lei’s words, these people “benefit from the ties that huge enterprises have with the government, enjoy the influence of the media and have a huge group of lawyers at their disposal.”

She added that they are capable of “conducting negotiations under the table with people of higher authority, causing confusion by making false statements and uncovering dubious legal documents to manipulate the judicial system.”

In addition to the obvious self-pity, Lei’s Facebook post points to Koo’s political maneuvering and talks of someone who could privately negotiate with people of higher authority, which is particularly noteworthy.

It is not difficult to guess who the “people of higher authority” might be, especially when there are few candidates so close to, and on such friendly terms with, the late Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), one of Taiwan’s richest businessmen and a former chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation.

What the public would like to know, then, is whether the whole chaotic process that the league has gone through over all these months is the result of interventions by “higher authorities.”

It is notable that the league signed the MOU, which would lead to its loss of rights and dissolution, with the Ministry of the Interior, which negotiated with the league, while bypassing the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee.

The signing of the memorandum was touted as an exemplary model of transitional justice, but now it looks rather like a fraud.

Long before the memorandum’s signing, Cecilia Koo asked her two daughters, Koo Huai-ju (辜懷如) and Vivien Koo (辜懷群), to collect her personal belongings from the league’s headquarters and to reportedly deliver 170 boxes of financial records to a staff member, surnamed Liu (劉), in Koo Huai-ju’s company. Within two weeks of this, three paper shredders were used to destroy the boxes’ contents.

It is worth asking why Cecilia Koo, in her latest statement, would rather dissolve the league, as the evidence has been cleaned up and the memorandum stipulates that, upon signing a formal administrative contract, the league “would no longer face investigations or punitive measures by the ministry or the committee.”

It is just as incomprehensible to the public as it is to Lei.

Although the truth has yet to emerge about what the Koo family might have concocted, the public does know that the committee took over the issue from the ministry after the league rejected the MOU.

The committee has since summoned Koo Huai-ju for further questioning, launched a probe into the Koo family’s possible illegal encroachments and alleged destruction of documents, and referred the case to prosecutors.

Cecilia Koo, who fled Taiwan on Feb. 13, might have been pressured into making such a “suicidal” announcement, given the predicament that she found herself in. Not long ago, Koo was reluctant to donate 80 percent of the league’s assets to the government, but now she wants to donate it all, as if she no longer feels pressured by “higher authorities” or needs evidence to prove her innocence.

Cecilia Koo’s ruse appears suicidal — dissolving the league, in any case — to protect her two daughters from being investigated and to put an end to tracking down the documents.

However, questions remain, as she could have secured the 170 boxes of financial documents by agreeing to sign the administrative contract with the government, instead of tearing up the agreement and forcing the committee to probe further.

The real issue behind the National Women’s League case is not the money that it received over the years, but the historical truth hidden within the 170 boxes of documents: Cecilia Koo has really destroyed the history of the party-state.

One cannot help but wonder who will now be able to restore justice for all Taiwanese, and who can provide a truthful account of history.

Chin Heng-wei is a political commentator.

Translated by Chang Ho-ming