The fragrance and comfort of clean hands?
The confidence, the peace you have when you know
You'll leave no ugly smudge upon the sheet?
Don't you remember the repulsion you had
When you shook hands with fat dirty men
With their dirty clammy palms? -- Henry Barlow, I refuse to take your Brotherly Hand
The Lafayette Scandal, perhaps the most important scandal in modern Taiwan political history, is receiving a new boost as prosecutors are calling witnesses to testify (I've run down some links in Lafayette, We Are Still Here). Former premier Hau Pei-tsun (
Former premier Hau Pei-tsun's (郝柏村) testimony that the decision on the purchase of Lafayette-class frigates was made not by him but by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) sparked disputes among legislators yesterday.
Hau made the allegation when he was questioned on Tuesday in connection with a kickback and murder scandal involving the deal.
Hau has been accused of arbitrarily deciding to buy six Lafayette-class frigates from France in 1989, thereby scuppering the navy's plan to buy 16 warships from South Korea.
Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus whip Yeh Yi-ching (葉宜津) said Hau was lying about the government's about-face on the ship procurement.
"A report issued by the navy has made it clear that Hau twice instructed the navy to hold off on the deal with South Korea and then reversed the decision overnight," Yeh said.
Hau said on Tuesday that he had merely recommended that the government consider each deal on its merits, because the French deal might have been more attractive, but Yeh disputed this.
"The decision was made in 1990, and the first Lafayette-class frigate was not built until 1993. It's irrational to spend tens of billions of dollars on an unfinished ship," she said.
Hau told reporters after being questioned that he, as the then-chief of the general staff, did not play a major role in the arms deal, adding that it was the chief of the armed forces (the president) who had the final say.
Back in 1989-91, when the procurement decision was being made, newly-minted President Lee Teng-hui and longtime KMT stalwart Hau were struggling over just who controlled the military. Hau's reference thus is imbued with surpassing irony: Lee could not have made the decision, because in the period 1989-1990 he did not control the military; Hau did. In fact, in January of 1988, when Chiang Ching-kuo died and Lee ascended to the Presidency, a hardline faction of mainlander officers threatened a coup. The intervention of James Soong, who mediated the crisis, enabled Lee to retain power. The early years of Lee's presidency were thus overshadowed by the conflict between Hau, point man for this faction (the "non-mainstream faction"), and Lee representing the Party Machine and the mainstream KMT factions, over the direction of the KMT, and the shape of the government. Lee moved Hau out of his position as Chief of the General Staff, into the post of Minister of Defense, and finally to the position of Premier in May of 1990. Hau was appointed to that position because of the continuing threat of hardliners who wanted to run Hau as an alternative Presidential candidate in the March 1990 election, and because the previous premier, Lee Huan, had sided with the hardline mainlanders against Lee Teng-hui (he was a close associate of Chiang Ching-kuo). In fact Hau would eventually run as the Veep on an alternative ticket with Lin Yang-kang in 1996.
Hau was premier from May of 1990 until January of 1993, arguing the whole time that the Taiwan government was a parliamentary system and that the Premier was responsible to the legislature, not to the President, whose position should be ceremonial. Further, Hau argued that the Premier, through the Minister of Defense, was the chief of the military. Lee was only able to wrest control of military affairs from him toward the end of this period. Hau's entire argument during this time was that the President was not chief of the armed forces, the premier was. Hence, when Hau identifies the "chief of the armed forces" as the decisionmaker in the Lafayette scandal and says he did not play a major role, he is playing coy. And soothing some old wounds....
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