President Chen Shui-bian is now back in Taipei.But before leaving Managua, where he wished President Daniel Ortega the best of luck on the occasion of the latter’s inauguration, Chen chided Premier Su Tseng-chang quite a few times for failure to cope with the snowballing Rebar scandal.He seems ready to fire his constitutional head of government.
It’s very irresponsible of President Chen to axe Premier Su.We pointed out in this column only a week ago on the day of Chen’s departure for San Francisco en route to Managua that he should sit tight in Taipei to be prepared for any contingencies that might arise in the wake of a panic run on the Chinese Bank, an affiliate of the Rebar group, founded by Wang You-theng who, together with his wife, is now staying in Shanghai and has no plan to return to Taipei to take responsibility.Incidentally, Mrs. Wang, one of a number of the business tycoon’s wives, is board chairman of the group, three more of whose affiliates have gone under.
Of course, we don’t think President Chen could have done any better than his premier, even if he had stayed, but the cancellation of his totally uncalled-for trip to Nicaragua could show the people that he cared about the financial crisis the Rebar scandal had triggered.Moreover, he should have refrained from rebuking Su in Managua.He shouldn’t have tried to make his premier a scapegoat.
That does not mean Premier Su is doing a good job coping with the scandal.He had his three top financial officials, including Governor of the Central Bank of China Perng Fai-nan, jointly endorse the Chinese Bank as a “government bank” and guarantee that the government would pay back every penny it owes its depositors.He himself said as much to calm down the depositors, who withdrew more than NT$50 billion in five days.Almost all the money came from the Resolution Trust Corporation, a Ministry of Finance-backed fund that was originally scheduled to cease to function at the end of last year.That’s the reason why the finance minister was not quite how much money the fund still has and vowed no taxpayers’ money would be used to bail out the bank which the Central Deposit Insurance Corporation took over.As a matter of fact, a percentage of tax on security exchange deals is set aside for the RTC, and that is taxpayers’ money.
At any rate, we are relieved to find the crisis appears localized.
Premier Su, who was trained as a lawyer, has called on the Chinese authorities to extradite or repatriate Wang You-theng to Taiwan.Given the special relationship across the Taiwan Strait, international law doesn’t apply, but the premier should know at least Taipei has not extradition agreement with Beijing, while the law enforcement authorities in China have no right to arrest Wang in Shanghai, unless he commits a crime.Does Su want to pass the buck to China?
President Harry S. Truman quipped at the Oval Office, “The buck stops here.”We believe Premier Su and President Chen would heed what President Truman, who almost single-handedly assured Taiwan of its survival after the Korean War had broken, said about the responsibility of the head of government and the head of state.