EDITORIAL NOTES

Taiwan's defence minister would make a good sitcom character: The China Post

Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan (centre) attends the first interpellation session of his tenure at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on May 23.
Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan (centre) attends the first interpellation session of his tenure at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on May 23.PHOTO: THE CHINA POST/ANN

In its editorial on May 31, the paper questions responses given by Admiral Feng Shih-kuan to the foreign relations committee.

Admiral Feng Shih-kuan, Minister of National Defence, was questioned three days after he was appointed on May 20 in an interpellation session of the Legislative Yuan's Defense and Foreign Relations Committee. 

He answered questions as if he were not the defence minister.

When Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Huang Chao-shun asked, "If the new administration were to support independence for Taiwan, would you wish to resign?" 

The new defence minister equivocated. 

He replied: "To resign or not to resign is a very important question. The important point is whether our Armed Forces have been nationalised or not." 

It's a terrible equivocation. 

Does he truly believe the Armed Forces he is now leading weren't "nationalised" enough in the eight years while President Chen Shui-bian was the commander in chief and were resurrected as the KMT Army, Navy and Air Force after Ma Ying-jeou served as president and commander in chief from 2008 to 2016?

There was little doubt that Huang was trying to embarrass Admiral Feng. 

So, Kuan Bi-ling, a lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, came to his rescue.

Kuan asked Feng, "Has President Tsai ever said she does not support Taiwan independence?" 

He said: "Never!" 

That isn't right. 

The right answer should be: "I believe she hasn't since she became president," because he certainly wasn't acquainted with her every speech before her election on Jan 16.

According to a recent poll, Kuan said, 23.8 per cent of eligible voters support Taiwan independence. 

She then asked the admiral: "Do our Armed Forces protect these people?" 

He answered, "The Armed Forces protect all 23 million people," and then made an absolutely irrelevant but inane addition. 

He added: "I will observe administrative neutrality." 

By "administrative neutrality" he meant neutral competence in public administration as the "ability to do the work of government expertly, and to do it according to explicit, objective standards rather than to personal or party or other obligations and loyalties." 

Such standards are required of government officials but not of the men and women of the Armed Forces. 

They obey orders. 

Failure to do so is mutiny. 

Does the admiral forget who he is?

Then came another question, which was entirely unnecessary. 

Kuan asked: "Former Premier Hau Pei-tsun said he was not going to protect separatists. What are you going to do?" 

"I am not Hau Pei-tsun!" Admiral Feng said. 

An equally stupid but rightful answer. 

Hau had been chief of the General Staff and defence minister before he was made premier by President Lee Teng-hui.

"You shouldn't say you don't support Taiwan independence. When you say that, what will all its supporters think?" Kuan asked. 

She added: "Why didn't you say the Armed Forces will safeguard all 23 million people of the country — without you dividing them (according to their beliefs on Taiwan independence) With or without your support for independence, will the Armed Forces do their very best to protect all the 23 million people?"

Back came a childish reply: "If you had taught me to say so — it'd be much better (if you had) — I would have said so," the defence minister said.

Taiwan's Amazonian parliamentarian fired her Parthian shot: "If public opinion were in favour of Taiwanese independence, as is found out by a plebiscite, would you support independence?" He answered: "I will follow public opinion!" 

Then, another unnecessary addition: "It's the same as everybody has to follow President Tsai after she was elected."

Nobody expects a defence minister to bandy with lawmakers like this. 

Their bout would be a very good sitcom show, if it were not between parliamentarians and the leader of the armed forces. 

Viewers may laugh, but they are sure Admiral Feng won't be a competent defence minister.

The China Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 newspapers.