Sun, Jan 07, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Opposition parties lashing out at Lee

For the first time ever, nearly 90 percent of the research budget of Academia Sinica has been put on hold. This, however, is one Taiwan first that doesn't deserve applause. Rather it is an act of spite by opposition lawmakers at the Legislative Yuan towards Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tse (李遠哲) for his support of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) during last year's presidential election and afterward. The KMT, in particular, has not forgiven Lee for refusing to support Lien Chan (連戰) after Lien stood on an election platform with an array of convicted crooks and known gangsters during the campaign. That the opposition's action is contemptible almost goes without saying. When is it not? But this piece of pettiness may have serious consequences. Most people shrug their shoulders at a research institution getting a budget cut. Little do they understand how that research may be essential to Taiwan's future prosperity and how jeopardizing critical projects, such as genome research, may damage Taiwan's economic competitiveness.

And of course it is not just Lee who suffers. The entire staff of Academia Sinica is affected by the withholding of the NT$4.4 billion budget for research projects. Nor will the impact necessarily be short term if the budget is released shortly after the new legislative session begins next month. Academia Sinica works together with other prestigious institutes around the world. Its inability to make good on research commitments can only weaken other's future interest to conduct joint research projects with Taiwan.

This act of folly indicates how talented our lawmakers are at lifting a rock only to drop it on our own toes. In other words, it is the people of Taiwan who suffer the consequences, not Lee alone. And for what? So, we have to assume, the opposition lawmakers can humiliate Lee and thereby hound him out of the political arena. Of course, they have good reason to fear Lee. He is seen as a man of impeccable integrity and enjoys the respect of almost every sector of society -- and where is the politician of whom that can be said? His theme of promoting social renaissance in the face of social decay has dealt a heavy blow to the KMT as it struggles to distance itself from "black-gold" influence, with no noticeable results so far. Naturally, Lee would function as a huge stumbling block should he blow the whistle on KMT-nominated legislative candidates in this year's elections.

Ironically, any attempt to force Lee to step down could turn out to be a dire mistake for the KMT and other opposition parties, in that, if he is relieved from official duty as the result of opposition pettiness, he is likely to be far more willing to campaign for the DPP and assist its candidates in the election -- exactly the opposite of what the KMT would like to see. Thus not only is slashing the Academia Sinica budget petty, not only does it endanger Taiwan's future, but it is liable to prove even counter-productive to the selfish political interests of those who did it.

The opposition legislators justified their behavior by saying that Lee had shown a lack of respect to the legislature by not attending a budget review session. The fact is that Lee wasn't taking a vacation but fulfilling his duty as the president of Academia Sinica by going abroad to sign research contracts with other international institutes, the date of which was scheduled before that of the budget review.

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