Tue, May 23, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Restoring honor to the job of councilor

By Chiu Li-li

A couple of weeks ago, a Kinmen county councilor, Lai Yu-chien (賴育茜), threw a fit and knocked out the deputy county commissioner with a book, after discovering the commissioner was absent from an interpellation by the council.

As a fellow local councilor, I am embarrassed by her behavior. As Taiwan's democracy and communalism develops, local councilors, whose role is to convey the wishes and opinions of their public, are "sinking" downward, becoming the major obstacle to mature democratic politics.

Maintaining a proper relationship with their local council is usually the most difficult task for local chief executives. While confrontation with councils obstructs the government's work, harmonious relations trigger speculation about "dividing the spoils" (利益分贓).

That's why local commissioners and mayors are especially cautious in dealing with their councils.

Several recent incidents have brought the disorder in local councils into the spotlight. The wife of Chen Yung-hsin (陳永興), a prominent official, was accused of accepting bribes. The commissioner of Tainan County, Chen Tang-shan (陳唐山), was even forced out of the county council.

However, it is the councils, rather than the executives, who are to blame. They are made up of people from widely disparate backgrounds. That is why ferocious disputes and conflicts are common in council meetings.

Local councilors are often grilled by the media over their unfamiliarity with parliamentary procedures and basic legal knowledge. Some councilors don't even know how to review a budget, not to mention their inability to properly allocate resources.

While a lack of professional ability and self-control have contributed to frequent verbal and physical attacks in council meetings, there are some well-educated, professional councilors. They regard themselves as "clean" councilors, but in fact they either go along with their colleagues' dirty deeds or shirk from exposing the wrongdoing of others to avoid trouble. They act like outsiders when disorder paralyzes the system.

All councilors, whether clean or dirty, are responsible for the deterioration of the councils.

Council sessions provide golden opportunities for publicity-hounds, groundless criticism, political vendettas and personal attacks on government officials. Local governments face frequent threats of adjournment from their councils when the latter's requests are turned down.

An addiction to media sensationalism also contributes to the disorder in local councils. The publicity gained from such coverage can determine a politician's future, rather than say, providing credible service to one's constituents.

Some councilors resort to extreme behavior in an effort to extend their political careers. That's why Lai has been praised by some people as a model of "aggressive self-assertion." She has even been called "Kinmen's first warship."

When violence is regarded as a positive form of self-expression, it reflects not only societal flaws but also the sad fact that politics are dominated by demagoguery.

Personally, I aspire to high-level politics and the example set by predecessors during the early years of Taiwan's democracy.

They neither made outlandish statements nor used exaggerated deeds to impress the public. They based their arguments on solid truth and constructive criticism of the government's administration.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top