Although "flattering" certainly wouldn't be the best characterization of former president Lee Teng-hui's (
Fueling Lee's anger is alleged corruption within the DPP government, which, with 10 ministers arrested on graft charges in the past eight years, has reached a level unequaled by any other country, he says.
Deplorable though the situation is -- and Lee as well as every Taiwanese have every reason to be outraged -- it is not as isolated as it seems, nor has the DPP been any worse than many other governments in that regard.
In fact, the region as a whole, with perhaps China in the lead, has long been plagued by corrupt officials whose shenanigans have reached proportions undreamed of in Taiwan. Nor is that phenomenon limited to Asia, as the Enron scandal, which ran tentacles deep inside the White House, or the sponsorship case in Canada, which forced the Liberal Party out of power, have shown.
Greed and corruption, sadly, are part of human nature. Lee himself recognized this when he wrote in his memoirs The Road to Democracy: "Even in advanced industrial nations, [problems] derive, on the one hand, from people's uncontrolled desires and greed, and on the other, from their stubborn rejection of the constraints of society."
As such, unless we invent a way to fundamentally alter this darker side of humanity, greed will continue to thrive in our midst.
What matters is that systems of accountability are in place that deal with these robber barons. The fact that 10 ministers have been arrested in less than eight years is proof that the system, though imperfect, is working.
One reason why such numbers were not reported when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was in power is that the party, with its authoritarian baggage, stood above accountability. And in light of how it has responded to requests that it return its stolen assets to the state, there is every reason to believe the KMT has retained that old reflex and would continue to do so should it regain power.
As with almost every democratic election in the modern world, voters in March will be handed the difficult task of choosing the lesser of two evils.
One, the DPP, is troubled by allegations of corruption, but it has made progress in its short time in power implementing a system of laws from which its own officials are not -- and should not be -- exempt.
The other, the KMT, is certainly no less corrupt, but it continues to show contempt and disregard for the law -- so much so, in fact, that it fetes as "national heroes" members in its ranks who have served jail time for criminal activity.
Sad though it is to see Lee use such language against a party whose raison d'etre it is to give Taiwan its proper place among the community of nations -- a goal, shared by Lee, that led to his ouster from the KMT -- his remarks were predictable encouragement for voters to support the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU).
In an electoral campaign marked by an absence of constructive proposals, Lee seemed to be giving the TSU a campaign weapon to advertise itself not only as a viable option on the legislator-at-large ticket, but also as a party that can clean up corruption.
But the corrupt officials are members of the executive, not the legislature. Which leaves one question for Lee: Who should voters support in the presidential election?
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Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
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