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Typhoon Morakot。A President Far From His People

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A President Far From His People                    Wednesday, Aug 12, 2009, Page 8 As hundreds of people wait for news of missing loved ones and hundreds of thousands mourn the damage to their towns, homes, shops and fields, solace is needed as urgently as relief efforts. But victims of Typhoon Morakot looking to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for that solace will be disappointed. Ma’s visit to areas ravaged by the storm was intended to instill confidence that the government is aware of the extent of the devastation and will not abandon communities to their fate. But Ma was visibly irritated and impatient with villagers who spoke to him. Grief-stricken residents were likely left feeling the president was as distant as ever, even when at arm’s length. Rather than consolation, Ma communicated aloofness. Nor were his comments on the roles of central and local governments appropriate or helpful. Ma said on Monday that local governments bore full responsibility for the relief effort, while the central government would help only if local authorities could not handle the situation. In this way, the government would ensure that it used funds “reasonably and efficiently,” he said. While excessive government spending has been a hot topic in past weeks, a disaster in which hundreds of people are feared missing is hardly the occasion to talk about governmental division of labor. If Ma learned any lessons from the extensive flooding in the south last year, he did not learn them well. The president came under fire last summer for not visiting areas devastated by torrential rains in June. At the time, the Presidential Office brushed off the criticism, saying Ma would not visit “out of respect for the Constitution” because “disaster relief and visits fall under the authority of the Executive Yuan.” This time there was no mention of “honoring” the Constitution. Ma was quick to head to the front lines of the disaster, but did such a poor job of displaying sympathy that he made Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) look like a man of the people for his cameo performance after the Sichuan quake. In times of disaster, the role of central and local governments is twofold: to ensure swift aid and to offer comfort and hope in the face of tragedy and trauma. Failing to perform either of these functions can have long-lasting political implications. Former US president George W. Bush’s cold response after Hurricane Katrina was more than a blunder: It betrayed indifference and isolation from human suffering, a disturbing quality in a head of state. For many in the US, Bush’s apathy was unforgivable, and the concern he voiced later could not repair his image. If Ma’s actions in the aftermath of Morakot are deemed inadequate by voters, his mistakes now could cost his party down the line. Long after the floodwaters have receded, the gradual process of reconstruction will serve as a reminder for those unhappy with Ma and his administration’s response to the disaster. Washed-out bridges, damaged roads and ruined crops will not be remedied in one electoral cycle. The disappointment over Ma’s response could be compounded by frustration over leaders and government agencies dodging responsibility for the disaster and relief efforts. Like last summer, the Presidential Office was quick to say relief and reconstruction efforts were not its job. Ma also criticized local governments for acting too slowly. The Cabinet, meanwhile, said it would not engage in a blame game with local governments at a time of crisis. It then proceeded to do just that by saying local governments bore responsibility for evacuating people in time — and hence for the death toll. At the least, Ma’s half-hearted visit to the south will further erode his dire approval ratings. At worst, his comments and those of leaders passing the buck will leave disaster victims feeling forsaken and wondering whether the help they need will come. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2009/08/12/2003450958(The Past) http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/jupiter-hu/article?mid=10066&sc=1

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作者: uxnevznz
  (2009-12-25 00:49)
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