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China Times: Rationality the soul of wit

China Times: Rationality the soul of wit

Both the government and the people in Taiwan should keep their heads cool in face of heightened tensions over the shooting death of a local fisherman by a Philippines government vessel, and refrain from populist overreaction that might actually turn the situation against Taiwan. After all, being rational does not mean being weak, hotheadedness cannot solve problems and succumbing to populist appeals can be counterproductive, undermining the moral uprightness and legitimacy that Taiwan has at the start of the incident. However, emotions have run high on the island after the May 9 incident, which have spawned calls that showed little discretion, including intensifying military deployment in waters near the Philippines and requesting the Philippines turn in the culprits. There have also been reports of inappropriate behavior on the part of Taiwan, such as physical assaults on Philippine laborers in Taiwan and web attacks by local hackers targeting Philippines government agencies, or snubs towards the Philippines' envoy. Taiwan should reflect on how it has been reacting to the incident to live up to what it has been billing itself as -- a mature, civilized and rational society and avoid the pitfalls of blind fury. In addition, Taiwanese people should also support the government in its efforts to seek justice for the victim. It is undeniable that the government's handling of the incident has not been without its flaws, including stretching the 72-hour deadline requesting a positive response from the Philippines and rushing to send investigators to the Philippines before the latter nodded. Nevertheless, the people in Taiwan should give President Ma Ying-jeou and his administration some credit for its response in the wake of the fisherman's death.
The Ma administration issued a 72-hour ultimatum two days after the incident, demanding the Philippines formally apologize, punish those responsible, compensate the family of the deceased and open fishery talks as soon as possible to avoid similar recurrences, which is to be expected of any rational country and is arguably well-handled. It is a fact that the Philippines government is at fault and the public furor is understandable. But we have to come to the understanding that the Philippines might need to preserve its dignity and may not meet all of Taiwan's demands. All in all, we should simplify the matters and work to solve the dispute peacefully and rationally. Any irrational anti-foreign sentiments and rash actions should be avoided. (Editorial abstract -- May 18, 2013) (By Scully Hsiao)