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Morakot's harm to Taiwan worsened by KMT hubris

 Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou listens to relatives of victims of those trapped or killed by Typhoon Morakot, at the emergency landing zone in Cisha...
Morakot's harm to Taiwan worsened by KMT hubris
Morakot's harm to Taiwan worsened by KMT hubris
Morakot's harm to Taiwan worsened by KMT hubris

Taiwan Asia Storm

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou listens to relatives of victims of those trapped or killed by Typhoon Morakot, at the emergency landing zone in Cisha...

As the toll from Typhoon Morakot mounts to over one hundred confirmed deaths, President Ma Ying-jeou and his Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) administration have still failed to realize that a major source of this tragedy lies in the KMT's own ingrained bureaucratism and hubris.
Despite growing criticism at home and in the global media of delays and confusion in rescue response, the Ma government has yet to manifest appreciation for the severity of the crisis by either issuing a state of emergency or agreeing to draft a special disaster recovery budget.
Instead, the KMT government leaders seem to be more preoccupied with defending their performance.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan declared that the response of the KMT government to this disaster was "very fast" compared to the 7.6 - magnitude "Chichi" earthquake on Sept. 21, 1999, saying that "full-scale disaster relief activities" began five days after the initial impact compared to seven days after "921."
Moreover, Liu said that mobilizing forces earlier in heavy rains "would only have had a little effect" and would have "risked more accidents."
As noted by other media, Liu's account does not square with the historical record, which shows that military commanders under then KMT administration under former president Lee Teng-hui had immediately deployed over 15,000 soldiers and other personnel with advanced equipment to launch rescue efforts.
While it is understandable that deployment of or by helicopters would be impossible or difficult during a typhoon, Liu's statement earlier Wednesday that he had finally ordered special forces units to engage in "comprehensive" rescue and search activities using surface transportation instead of helicopters on Tuesday hardly qualifies as "very fast."
?related controversy concerns the controversy over why foreign rescue and relief teams have been so visibly absent from Taiwan in this crisis, despite the widespread concern manifested by the world community.
Spokesmen for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Defense acknowledged Wednesday that over 30 countries, including the United States and Japan, had expressed concern over the disaster and offered to send personnel, equipment, materials or funds to assist in disaster rescue, relief and recovery.
However, MOFA and MND spokesmen stated that the Taiwan government believed that there was "no need at present" for such assistance.
These statements confirmed the Aug. 11 statement by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley that Taipei had not made any requests for assistance even though Washington was "gravely concerned about the impact of the typhoon in Taiwan" and had the ability to "respond aggressively" with "formidable assets."
Yesterday, President Ma denied that foreign assistance had been refused and, six days after Typhoon Morakot slammed into Taiwan and the Executive Yuan issued a list of requests for assistance to foreign nations, including heavy helicopters, prefabricated housing, portable sterilizers,
Although belated, the acknowledgement of openness to foreign assistance is welcome, but does not constitute convincing evidence that such offers were not refused.
After all, the fact of the matter is that no civic or official foreign assistance teams have appeared in Taiwan, in stark contrast to the rapid and massive international response in the first three days after "921."
The delay inevitably will give rise to speculation of an alternative explanation to ingrained KMT bureaucratism, namely that the Ma government refused the deployment of U.S. or Japanese government or even military rescue teams on Taiwan soil in order to avoid straining Ma's policy of "reconciliation" with the authoritarian People's Republic of China.
In any event, the critical issue is that the greatest potential "effect" of rapid deployment of national rescue and military forces and the fast arrival of foreign rescue teams is the chance to save the lives of trapped people during the first "golden 72 hours" after a disaster strikes.
It is for this reason why victims of this disaster will find it difficult to accept the accountant logic displayed by Liu's "cost-benefit" analysis of delaying the deployment of massive rescue forces until climate conditions had improved, by which time many lives may, and undoubtedly were, lost.
The loss of even one life should be cause for deep regret and there is no room for a national leader to display self-satisfaction or reject criticism as "unprofessional" or twist news media and citizen criticism of the KMT government into "slandering" soldiers and other personnel who have bravely worked and even sacrificed their own lives in rescue and relief work.
Indeed, a survey of 1,074 Taiwan adults carried out Aug. 10-11 by the pro-blue TVBS cable television network showed that nearly 70 percent affirmed the contribution of soldiers, but 47 percent were displeased with Ma's disaster response performance, 52 percent were dissatisfied with the performance of the central government and 53 percent lack faith in the Ma government's competence to respond to future disasters.
It's time for Ma and other KMT leaders to shed their arrogant claims of "competence" and humbly face the examination of the Taiwan people.