Gerrit van der Wees discusses recent threats to Taiwan’s security and democracy in the Taipei Times. Because the Taipei Times edited their piece, I offer the unedited version here.


Ma undermining Taiwan’s democracy and security

Two recent events show that the Ma Administration is quickly earning itself the label of being a trouble-maker and is letting the courts and the Legislative Yuan undermine the island’s hard-earned democracy.

First, the political uproar generated by the provocative comments of Prime Minister Liu Chao-shiuan and the reckless actions by extremist KMT legislators: in response to the accidental sinking of a Taiwanese recreational fishing boat in the waters near the Tiaoyutai/Senkakus, Prime Minister Liu let himself be goaded by the KMT legislators into saying that he “doesn’t exclude war” with Japan over the incident.

While he later retracted the statement, the events do display the rather unbalanced thinking of the Ma Administration on the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty and security: they seem to want to “defend the nation’s sovereignty” over a fishing boat and a piece of rock, but Mr. Ma neglected to mention Taiwan’s sovereignty in his inaugural address and it was whitewashed in the recent meetings with China.

The Ma Administration could have tried to determine what actually happened. They would have found out that the boat from Taiwan was there against the 12 mile zone agreement between Taiwan and Japan, and that the captain was unnecessarily endangering the lives of his crewmembers.

Instead of letting the legal authorities handle it (like the Japanese did in a very evenhanded way), the KMT authorities made a political issue out of it, and even recalled the Taiwanese representative in Tokyo. That was a very unwise political move, because it estranges Taiwan from its closest ally in the region. In doing so, he seriously undermines Taiwan’s security.

In addition, at home Mr. Ma is undermining Taiwan’s democracy and is fostering the corruption that he says he so much abhors: the judicial authorities are pressing charges against former President Chen Shui-bian in relation to a “slander suit” brought against the former President and two DPP legislators, one of which is presently still serving in the Legislative Yuan.

The case stems from remarks made by the President and the two legislators in 2005, stating that retired vice admiral Lei Hsueh-ming, retired rear admiral Wang Chin-shen and three others were involved in a 1988-1992 kick-back scheme in the purchase of French-made Lafayette frigates. The two navy officers held key positions under former Defense Minister Hau Pei-tsun when the decision was made to switch from a purchase from South Korea to France.

According to former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, some US$ 500 million in kickbacks were paid by Thompson CSF, US$ 400 million through the office of the KMT secretariat general, then headed by Mr. James Soong. During his term in office, President Chen tried to get court authorities to investigate the case and prosecute those who were found guilty, but this was stonewalled by the KMT-dominated courts.

So, by allowing the slander suit against the former President to move ahead, Mr. Ma is undermining democracy and is not taking the necessary action against those who were involved in corruption on a large scale. A fair and just judicial system should take legal action against corrupt practices, not against whistle blowers.

The people of Taiwan have worked hard to achieve Taiwan’s security and democracy. It would be foolish for it to be squandered away by provocative words and reckless actions of the Ma Administration and ultra Chinese-Nationalist KMT legislators.

Gerrit van der Wees is editor of Taiwan Communiqué, a publication based in
Washington DC