The Sunflowers Protest and Pigs in a Poke

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Sunday April 6, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

These times of protest are times to try Taiwanese souls. But they also are times that all Taiwanese need to remember both now and when November 29 comes around. In the current Service Trade Agreement, Taiwanese are basically being asked by their president Ma Ying-jeou to buy the unseen proverbial "pig in a poke (sack)." Ma tells the wary people that his unseen and unexamined black box trade agreement is their salvation. Whether a pig is actually in there is unknown. Without examination there may be a cat, a rat or maybe many snakes, but still President Ma insists that the Legislative Yuan forego its duty and give his "unseen pig" a rubber stamp. This is the first point the people should remember.

There is more. The people need to also begin to connect the dots. They need to remember that this is Ma Ying-jeou, the man who has lived by spin-doctors and image-makers. He is a man who has consistently replaced unfulfilled promises with new more vague and grandiose unfulfilled promises from the infamous 6-3-3 on up to the golden decade to the unseen pig. This is the man who has earned numerous nicknames that range from Ma the Incompetent, to Ma the Bumbler, to 9 per cent Ma, and even worse. This "nine per cent man" is the one who had previously insisted that his predecessor Chen Shui-bian should step down when his approval rating reached an embarrassing 18 per cent. But he holds himself exempt from such judgments.

The people must remember that Ma is a man who likes to rule from a distance and has always found someone to either face the consequences or take the fall for him when mistakes are made and/or crimes committed. This has ranged over the years from the jailed secretary that placed nearly a half million US dollars in Ma’s bank account "without Ma’s knowledge" when he was Mayor of Taipei, through his government’s asleep at the wheel response to typhoon Morakot on up to the recent resignation of State Prosecutor-General Huang Shyh-ming who gave "unrequested" classified information to Ma in Ma’s attempt to oust House Speaker Wang Jin-pyng. Ma is also the man who after his attempted character assassination of Wang then had the gall to ask Wang to take full responsibility for clearing the Legislative Yuan of those protesting Ma's secret dealings.

That the initial service trade negotiations had to be done in private is understandable, but Ma's insistence that the Legislative Yuan subsequently ignore its task of review and give this agreement a rubber stamp is unacceptable. Why the black box should not be opened and the contents examined before the final approval is made is the question that must be asked by all. Ma and his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have a majority in the Legislative Yuan that can eventually approve it, so why is he afraid to have it reviewed item by item when he can be sure of getting what he wants passed? What does he want to hide?

The answer to this becomes apparent as well as the reason for the recent protests when one considers the true damage that the student protesters fear—their future. It would be one thing for the Legislative Yuan to give a quick rubber stamp approval and make the pact a fait accompli before the amount of the damage could be realized. But it would be a whole different matter for the people to see the country slowly being given away, item by item, as the Legislative Yuan reviews each item and the KMT would use its legislative majority to repeatedly approve Ma's unseen pig.

This Sunflower protest had been non-violent until Ma refused to meet with the protestors and/or even to acknowledge what it was they really wished to discuss. Again, true to form Ma sent a representative with no power to act, namely Premier Jiang Yi-huah. Immediately after Jiang heard the students concerns and demands he admitted that he did not have any authority to respond, only Ma had that authority. Why go through the pretense of sending a man who can do nothing?

There appears in all of this the question and shadow of a deceitful, Quisling-like character trait that one struggles to put one's finger on and this is what Taiwan's current Sunflower Movement has exposed on a nation wide scale. Now more than ever, Ma is revealed as a stubborn, distanced man who constantly tries to fit square pegs into round holes and apparently lives in a fantasy world of his own upbringing and creation in which he leads a one-party state. He and his spin-doctors claim that he has completed over ninety per cent of his campaign promises and that relations between Taiwan and both the United States and China are the best they have ever been. If all this is so, why then, after Ma's six years as president, is the economy so poor and the country in such dire straits? This is not the making of one day, but of six years of one man and one party, the KMT, that has always controlled the Legislative Yuan.

This protest is and had to be non-partisan by nature to have credibility; if organized by one of the opposition political parties, its motivation would easily be questioned. But once the protest is past, the voters must take responsibility and remember. This protest must not be in vain. This conflict has arisen because that one man, and one party are responsible. Ma has dual roles as both president and chairman of the KMT. That ruling party has stretched it rules to allow him to remain as chairman beyond the normal time.

Now comes the final point the people need remember. The nation is stuck with 9 per cent Ma for the next two years unless it can find grounds for impeachment, but on November 29th, however, the people can act. Significant change will only come through the ballot box. ***

*** (As footnote, the people of course, did act in the Nov. elections and they soundly voted out the representatives of Ma's KMT party..)