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Retired generals must earn the respect of the nation

Publication Date : 04-06-2014


In most countries, military personnel are seen as having a noble profession.

That is not the case in Taiwan, however, when servicemen and women are not as well-respected as their foreign counterparts despite the Taiwanese military's repeated calls for the people to show them more respect.

The reason behind the relatively low social status of military personnel on the island nation is a series of scandals that have erupted over the past few years. These include sexual harassment cases and occasional espionage cases involving high-ranking military officials, such as the case of Lo Hsien-che, a former Army major general who was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of carrying out espionage on behalf of Beijing.

Two recent cases centering on retired generals again remind us why military personnel, whether active or retired, are not given respect.

An investigative report released by the Control Yuan last Wednesday accused the Veterans Affairs Commission (VAC) of political patronage in its appointing of retired military personnel to top managment positions in VAC-affiliated companies.

According to the Control Yuan report, between 2010 and Oct. 2013, 33 out of 34 people sent by the VAC to 12 of its affiliated companies to serve as senior managers were retired generals.

They were given an average annual salary of NT$1.5 million, and one of them enjoys an annual income as high as NT$4.3 million, the report said.

These retired military personnel are now receiving even higher pay than was the case in their previous posts in the military, the Control Yuan report said.

The government watchdog warned that the VAC's move has dealt a serious blow to the government's image, especially in a time of economic downturn when most nationals have not seen their salary increase in years.

In response to the report, instead of conducting a review, VAC Minister Tung Hsiang-lung fended off the political patronage accusation during an interpellation session at the Legislative Yuan last Thursday, stressing that hiring retired generals to top management posts at VAC-invested private companies was actually “beneficial to the national economic situation.”

In his argument, Tung, a former Navy commander, said these top positions would cost the VAC a lot of money if they decided to hire ordinary citizens instead of retired generals.

All of them waived their rights to receive a monthly retirement pension before taking up the positions in VAC-invested companies, he added, stressing that the decision has saved at least NT$30 million in taxpayer money.

Tung added that these retired generals have to endure tremendous pressure because they are now responsible for the operation of private companies.

They only receive “several tens of thousands more” in their pay per month compared with their previous positions, and they work very stressful jobs, Tung said, hinting that Taiwanese should be thankful for their contributions instead of criticising them and calling them “fat cats.”

It was also on the same day that several lawmakers questioned the fact that more than a dozen retired R.O.C. generals have accepted invitations from Chinese authorities to attend the 90th anniversary of the Whampoa Military Academy in China later this month.

They called on the VAC to have better control of these retired generals on their scheduled visits to China because Beijing is still the major military threat to Taiwan.

According to statistics revealed by an opposition lawmaker, there are currently more than 120 retired generals living and doing business in China, which, although not against the law, still raises serious security concerns.

Such behaviour by retired generals is exactly why Taiwanese people have little respect for military personnel.

After all, how could you have respect for these retired generals when a group of them are receiving high salaries from government-run companies and another group regularly visits China, Taiwan's supposed enemy.

One piece of advice to these retired generals: respect is earned and not given.

It you wish the nation to respect servicemen and women, you should stop doing things that will hurt the feelings of Taiwanese people and the nation as a whole.


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