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Ma needs to step up, take the helm

Shih Ming-teh, a former chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), marched on the Presidential Plaza at the head of more than 100,000 Redshirts and all of them sat down on Ketagalan Avenue for a two-week marathon sit-in on Sept. 9, 2006. It marked the beginning of Taiwan's first and only island-wide people's power movement, which he called the March of One Million to demand President Chen Shui-bian stand down to take responsibility for a spate of corruption and graft scandals involving himself, his wife, their son-in-law, and his cronies. More than 1 million people, every one of them chipping in NT$100 to raise funds for the campaign and all wearing red shirts, took part to bring pressure to bear on President Chen to resign. The March of One Million failed, unlike the People's Power Revolution in the Philippines that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

People's power failed to depose President Chen, not because Shih did not have enough popular support, but because the people of Taiwan preferred to have the rule of law prevail. They knew Chen had to step down in less than two years and he would be brought to justice. And brought to justice he was. He was arrested at the end of 2008, tried, convicted of corruption and graft, and is doing time for at least 17 more years.

Su Tseng-chang, chairman of the DPP who quit as premier to run unsuccessfully for vice president in 2008, is emulating Shih, a revolutionary at heart. Su kicked off his “People's Fury” campaign on Dec. 19 at Taipei's Longshan Temple, a popular Buddhist-Taoist hybrid old shrine dedicated nominally to the Goddess of Mercy who transformed from male Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva as he crossed from India to China.

Rallies have been held in six other places on Taiwan to muster at least 100,000 supporters to march on the Presidential Plaza on Jan. 13 as a finale of the campaign to vent their ire at Ma Ying-jeou, the “bumbler” president who they believe has messed up everything in the first seven or so months of his second term to make their lives harder, if not miserable, and to demand his resignation because he has refused to call a national conference at Su's request to set the guidelines of government to solve their difficult problems of livelihood. The March of 100,000 can't compare with Shih's March of One Million in scale, in appeal, and for lack of justification.

Unlike the dictator Marcos and like Chen Shui-bian, President Ma has to retire in three years' time and there's no reason why he must quit now or in the immediate future for botching in the beef war with Uncle Sam, hiking fuel prices and power rates, failing to achieve a higher economic growth to lower the unemployment rate and whatnots, for which he isn't technically responsible. The trouble with Ma is that he tries not to do the job of the president and do the jobs of his ministers and company chief executive officers. In that sense, he is responsible for the woes of the protestors.

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