Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Slouching Toward Singapore Redux

For the past few years, even before being elevated to the Presidency, Ma Ying-jeou has been pointing to Singapore as a government to admired and emulated. Recently the President has introduced the idea of forming an independent corruption commission, modeled on Singapore and Hong Kong.

Today in the China Times, the pro-KMT newspaper, a judge in Taichung commenting on the idea of an ICC pointed to the interesting case of a judge busted for bribery in 1995. He writes:


In 2010, the case is still being heard in the High Court! For a case involving a million in bribe money, the High Court can spend 15 years without coming to a decision. Can this kind of proceeding be called "Clear Rapid Disposition"? In accordance with the "proper speed of judgment" act, if the judge delays eight years, the defendent may have his sentence reduced. The Judicial Yuan continues to add members to the High Court. Is this reasonable?

With this kind of failure at the High Court, 100 independent corruption commissions would be useless!

The judge is complaining that justice delayed is justice denied, in a case involving fellow judge. In fact, it has the deep stink of protecting the fellow judge, especially since the person who bribed the judge has already been convicted.

The independent corruption commission has two obvious uses. The first is against politicians who don't toe the KMT line, such as members of a certain pro-democracy party.

The second is against local faction politicians, as Ma once did before. As the big boys from China quietly muscle their way into the construction-industrial state patronage networks in Taiwan, the local faction politicians are increasingly going to find themselves on the outside looking in. At present China is merely a distant disaster, the dull glow of a forest fire on the horizon. But as Chinese money and investment displaces local power structures, at some point the local factions that the KMT depends are likely to become restive. Thus an independent corruption commission -- which is under the Ministry of Justice (how independent can it be?) -- to keep the locals in line. The friend who flipped me this article said "I see the hand of King Pu-tsun [the Little Knife, Ma's hatchet man] at work here."

In related news, the Judicial Yuan head resigned this week. With Lai, a Lee Teng-hui man and a Chen appointee, out the door, Ma can now move his own man into the position. One rumor has Su Chi's brother, also a longtime Ma associate, slated for the post.

UPDATE: Kyodo News (behind paywall) reports that the new "independent commission" will not be very independent. Pending legislative approval, the office will combine two sections of the justice ministry, use existing staff, be under the supervision of top prosecutors, and answer to the justice minister. Both government and opposition legislators, and the media, expressed concern.
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M said...

I think getting rid of the factions is more about strengthening the control of the central government. The factions are already very restive as far as I can tell. However, it is unlikely they can be completely displaced, the KMT still needs them to mobilize votes at election time.
Still, how about something favourable on King? The local factions call him the "little knife" because he threatens their interests. If he is able to weaken the local factions, wouldn't that be a good thing?

Michael Turton said...

I don't think I made a judgment about whether weak local factions would be a "good" or "bad" thing.

Marc said...

Ask UK writer Alan Shadrake his opinion of Singapore's justice system!