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Liberty Times: Why not give teeth to sunshine laws?

2012/07/05 15:58:59

The graft scandal involving former Cabinet Secretary General Lin Yi-shih has prompted widespread calls for an examination of the government corruption issue from various angles: Did President Ma Ying-jeou pick the wrong person? Why have state-controlled companies become a fat purse that dirty politicians are trying to dip into? Shouldn't political parties re-examine their nomination procedures, paying special attention to their sources of campaign funding?

The answers to these questions would shed light on the making and breaking of Lin Yi-shih. But society has all along shied away from asking the core question of how Ma obtained his campaign funding, considering that he was either working as a teacher or in government service before he ran for Taipei mayor and ROC president.

This question applies not just to Ma, but to all politicians. Without donations from different sectors of society, particularly from businesses, the majority of politicians would not be where they are today.

In a mature democracy, the parliament would enact a set of sunshine laws to regulate lobbying by the private sector. In Taiwan, however, power holders tout their "morality" and use "integrity" as a cosmetic. The reason is simple. We have a majority party in the Legislature, but it has never dared to pass really binding sunshine laws.

What we have is a set of toothless "anti-corruption" laws that do not even work retroactively. Four years after a former president was thrown behind bars for corruption, the corruption issue is far from being solved. Rather, it has become even more serious, hiding behind the mask of "clean government," a slogan that has been mocked by the foreign media as a shiny sign whose paint is peeling.

We must not believe that there are saints in this world, especially in politics. Anyone with real moral power and a vision knows that it is more important to build a sound system than to shout slogans. That is the only way to minimize the dark corners in the halls of political deal making and to maximize the chances of rooting out corruption.

Therefore, apologies from leading politicians are not enough. Nor are the ruling party's promises to "remember the lessons learned" from the Lin Yi-shih scandal.

What we need is a set of sunshine laws on par with those in advanced countries, which would remove the "black hand" interfering in state-controlled firms and force such companies to improve their management.

Of course, the ruling party and the administrative team must also carry out internal purges to clean house. If they cannot do this, they should simply stop talking about "clean government." (Editorial abstract -- July 5, 2012)

(By S.C. Chang)
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