In a bid to show just how squeaky clean he is — as opposed to the “dirty” former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and, by association, the “corrupt” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) — President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) unveiled the latest brainchild of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-led government: the Agency Against Corruption (AAC).
This is a rich twist to Taiwanese politics, given that the KMT is one of the most corrupt political parties ever to exist. It is a little bit like the Cosa Nostra in Sicily forming its own bureau to make sure nobody breaks the law.
Ma does not want to give up on a winning strategy. After all, juxtaposing his clean-cut, good-guy image against Chen’s money-grubbing ways was one of the myths that Ma and the KMT created to get into the Presidential Office in 2008.
It is a good thing that the Taiwanese government has a body dedicated to rooting out corruption amongst civil servants, but are the head of the KMT and his subordinates going to be able to restrain themselves from using the AAC to attack their political opponents? If their past three years in power show us anything, the answer is “not likely.”
In all likelihood, the AAC will become the AADPPC, or the Agency Against DPP Corruption, especially in the lead-up to January’s presidential election. Although Ma said at the AAC’s inauguration that adequate evidence proving corruption must be shown before it can bring a case, this is not very hard to do given the murky rules surrounding the use of the special budgets for any elected official and a cultural attitude of cutting corners in Taiwanese government circles — for example, using any old receipt to claim expenses, something even Ma has been implicated in.
In a thinly veiled threat, Ma said that coming under investigation would severely damage the reputation of a civil servant and make his or her spouse afraid to go to work and their children afraid to go to school. This amounts to communal punishment, and it can easily be meted out to those who disagree with the president politically.
Let’s look at what has happened in the lead-up to the presidential election: Just before the end of the DPP’s primary, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Panel (SIP) announced that it was investigating the disappearance of thousands of documents during the former president’s administration, saying that it could possibly indict former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), then in the running for the DPP presidential nomination. Then, just as DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was to unveil her campaign office, the SIP indicted former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) on charges of embezzling state funds and money laundering, conveniently just after Lee said that Ma must be voted out of office.
Just how determined is the Ma government to stamp out corruption? Recent moves regarding the rampant and ongoing practice of vote buying are telling. From December 2008 to May last year, 26 local officials belonging to the KMT were indicted around the nation for vote buying. How did the government reward Hsin Tai-chao (邢泰釗), the chief prosecutor at the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office, who is credited with being Taiwan’s leading prosecutor against the practice of vote buying? He was transferred to Kinmen Island. That shows real determination.
Now, Ma unveils a government body whose entire purpose is to investigate and indict corrupt officials. With his government’s track record, you can expect to see a whole list of officials connected with the DPP indicted on dubious grounds in the next few months.
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