Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Sinkhole that is Taiwan Politics

Prosecutors in the Sogo Scandal dragged in First Lady Wu for interrogation in that influence-peddling case...

Prosecutors wanted to know if Wu had received a number of Pacific Sogo Department Store vouchers and if she had, from who, Lin said.

Lin said the first lady had cooperated fully. He however declined to say whether
prosecutors had found anything suspicious about Wu's alleged role in the Pacific
Sogo Department Store's ownership war.

The interview lasted about three hours and Wu was not accompanied by a bodyguard, Lin said.

Prosecutors suspect that the first family's doctor, Huang Fang-yen (黃芳彥), may have accepted a large number of Pacific Sogo gift vouchers on Wu's behalf.

Huang was questioned by prosecutors last week. The gift vouchers he is said to have accepted were allegedly worth around NT$6 million (US$185,000).

The English article doesn't tell you, but Huang is godfather to Chen's daughter and is extremely close to the First Family. You don't get US185K of gift certificates without the expectation from the giver that you are going to give them access. Prosecutors evidently believe that the circumstantial evidence is starting to become damning. In any case, to my mind President Chen basically conceded that Wu had accepted Sogo vouchers when he noted in his speech last month on the Sogo scandal that Wu never "directly" received vouchers. That weasel word was a red flag. Further, not only does it indicate guilt on the First Lady's part, it also indicates his knowledge of guilt. I'm glad I'm on vacation so I don't have to think about this more.

Meanwhile DPP stalwart Lin Cho-shui, recently a critic of President Chen, noted in an editorial commentary in the Taipei Times dissed a new amendment passed by the legislature that will slash Chen's future pension:

The amendment slashes presidential pensions to an amount well below the total annual NT$18 million (US$554,400) package that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) receives. Specifically, the package would be only NT$11 million the first year after a president steps down (the amendment will go into effect next January) and NT$8 million per year after three years.

Under the new rules, preferential treatment would be extended for the same number of years as the person's term in office. In other words, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) would be entitled to eight years of preferential treatment after 2008. Lee, however, is entitled to 12 more years of preferential treatment, on top of the seven years that he has already received to reflect the 19 years he spent first as vice president and then president.

Lien, therefore, can go on collecting benefits befitting of a retired US president but not a retired US vice president, including monthly payouts in excess of NT$460,000. The president, meanwhile, is eligible for only NT$250,000 per month upon retirement. Lien's family members recently swore that they would no longer receive any excessive preferential treatment, but now they do not have to deliver on that promise. The amendment, when put into effect, translates into doting on Lien, sheltering Lee and bulldozing Chen. This result is the product of pure politicking.



Sun Bin said...

when reason wins over the simple color-division-line, i see hope in DPP, and serious challenge to 'invincible' Ma.

That is a good sign for the people in Taiwan. More competition to serve you, good for you, bad for them.

The question is, what % of the DPP supporters/members agree with you and Lin?

Sun Bin said...

btw, the more important messages from Lin's essay is this

The amendment is poles apart from the US' approach to providing retired presidents with preferential treatment, due to the nasty partisan politics behind it. The US' presidential retirement package is derived from an era in which presidents were expected to show self-restraint and be upstanding.

Many retired presidents had to become lawyers or judges after their terms in order to avoid destitution -- an embarrassing phenomenon for the nation.

For example, presiding over cases litigated by an attorney who was once the country's president was a sticky situation for judges. Former presidents becoming chairmen of companies also proved to be problematic.

So, the US established a system that allowed former presidents to live out their remaining years in relative comfort and safety. To that end, the content of such preferential treatment is more or less as follows:

Michael Turton said...

The color division line is a reasonable one, Sun. It's the line between the pro- and anti-democracy sides, and the line between the pro-Taiwan and the pro-China sides. This scandal is a very bad thing for the people of Taiwan, and their future as an independent and democratic society. As my wife observed the other day, the DPP spent years building itself, and so much was thrown away because Chao Chien-ming just couldn't be satisfied with a great job and a bright career.

Personally I've never believed Ma to be invincible. I think Su can take him. But it doesn't matter much with the KMT's grip on the local level. The amendments passed today, though, are a reminder of the remarkable immaturity of the KMT, and a clue as to what kind of governance we can expect from a Ma-led Blue government.

Yes, I thought Lin's comments on the contrast with the US were important. But I can't put the whole article in....:)