There are times when a government’s performance can be so wretched and wrong-headed that even its foes might draw a line and, for the sake of everyone’s welfare, encourage officials to do a better job rather than tear them to pieces on the legislative floor.
After the dismal performance of top health officials in the last weeks, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) must be wondering if that time is approaching.
For the moment, it has not taken much pressure from the DPP to see damaging fallout from the melamine debacle. The just-inked resignation of minister of health Lin Fang-yue (林芳郁) virtually wrote itself, as did the premature letters of farewell from some of his subordinates.
The DPP now hopes to capitalize on the Department of Health’s woes by mobilizing supporters in another rally in Taipei, possibly to coincide with the arrival of a Chinese envoy on a bridge-building journey with Taiwan’s pro-China government. Such a rally would happily merge growing anger at slovenly Chinese health and safety standards and erratic Taiwanese inspection standards with the DPP’s higher goal of painting the Chinese mission as fundamentally hostile to the political interests of every Taiwanese.
The danger lies in the DPP tarnishing an entire sector of the Taiwanese workforce with language that is rightfully directed at inept managers. The party will do no one any good by adopting the tactics of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) while it was in opposition and smearing anyone and anything within range, especially people in the medical and public service sectors who strive to be conscientious, innovative and hard-working.
Indeed, when things are put into perspective, the hapless antics of Taiwan’s health bureaucracy draw a degree of sympathy compared with the dreadful show being put on by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and some of his senior Cabinet colleagues.
The sight of Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) embracing the wife of the alleged would-be assassin of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) after she tried to prostrate herself before her in classic imperial style was warning enough: Wang stupidly embraced a likely plaintiff in a case that the previous government’s investigators declared closed.
Wang, who has a vested interest in prosecuting the case against Chen, and who has already displayed a knack for compromising the fairness of legal proceedings, lacks the slightest understanding of the importance of a justice minister being — and appearing to be — neutral.
This kind of amateur-hour conduct brings the government into disrepute no less substantially than disagreement, inconsistency and tardiness on health issues. The difference is that if the legal system is not seen as impartial, then a person who wished to sue the government — even over health matters — would suddenly have every reason to be skeptical that a just verdict would follow, despite the fact that health is not so easily politicized.
As the days wear on, it is clear that the premier is unable to manage his Cabinet, and that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is so obsessed with cross-strait identity issues that he cannot understand the rot that is compromising his appointments.
For its part, the DPP can make a start in recovering some of the goodwill that it lost by making intelligent choices in what it attacks and whom it counsels. Taiwan does not deserve another opposition party that prefers indiscriminate attacks to careful, pinpoint discussion of what is going wrong, why and who is responsible.
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