Tue, Nov 27, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Unity, not discord is needed now in Taiwan

By Paul Shan 單國璽

The people of Taiwan face important choices in the Dec. 1 city and county chief and legislative elections. It needs to be said that the viewpoints and rhetoric articulated during the campaign constantly reflect the fact that we are still constrained by historical feuds and other divisive factors. As a result, we have heard mainly scurrilous attacks, but have seen few far-sighted political platforms. This situation truly worries all those concerned about Taiwan's future.

This reminds me of the inspiration contained in The Gospel of Luke (Luke 5:4-10). As he addressed his disciple, Simon (Peter), Jesus saw that he had "worked hard all night but caught nothing" as he tried to catch fish. He then asked Simon to "put out into deep water." Although doubtful, Simon followed Jesus' words. As a result, "they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them."

This biblical description of Simon working hard all night and yet catching nothing reflects Taiwan's situation. Even though we enjoy the democratic right to take part in the political process, we have been constantly engaged in superficial quarrels and ideological conflict. Not only does this cost the country dearly, but the situation might even get worse. Uneasiness and distrust among the public will trigger further clashes.

Taiwan's political elite -- including all the city and county chief and legislative candidates, and especially the leaders of the major parties -- are absolutely obliged to lead the 23 million people of Taiwan toward deep water so that they can clearly see the real problems, challenges and opportunities facing Taiwan. They should then propose strategies in response and help to realize the peoples' hopes.

Taiwan's problems include crises in public order and family values, rising unemployment, labor rights disputes, poverty among Aboriginal communities, educational rights disputes, a sharp decrease in investment due to lack of business confidence and the challenges facing the society and economy after accession to the WTO. These are the matters with which society should concern itself and the key issues for voters in the elections.

If a political party fails to meet voters' expectations on these issues, there is no reason whatsoever to support such a party and its candidates.

I call on the responsible and far-sighted parties of Taiwan to immediately stop the meaningless war of words and the use of ethnic issues to provoke conflict for political gain. They should instead respond to Taiwan's deep-seated needs and problems. Only in this way can we recognize the importance of ethnic harmony and embrace the challenges and promises that our young century has in store.

Paul Shan is a Roman Catholic cardinal, based in Kaohsiung.

Translated by Jackie Lin

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