Sun, Mar 17, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Enshrine democracy, not presidents

What an irony that a KMT lawmaker, Huang Te-fu (黃德福), is submitting a long-overdue bill to rename the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (國立中正紀念堂). The new name being proposed, "President Memorial Hall" (總統紀念館), is a definite improvement. However, this newspaper proposes an even better name to highlight Taiwan's proudest political accomplishment -- "Democracy Memorial Hall" (民主紀念館).

The impropriety of naming a national landmark after the late dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) who was ultimately responsible for decades of white terror and martial law in Taiwan goes without saying. Under the circumstances, it is an insulting joke to continue exalting and honoring this icon of fascism in such a manner, when Taiwan is supposedly a shining example of democracy.

In the past years, countless political rallies have taken place in the grounds of this memorial hall, while many demonstrations and protest marches have begun there as well. Since these activities are a cornerstone of democracy, reflecting a real freedom to express one's views, it is truly sadly ironic that they occur in a place named after a person who stood for values diametrically opposed to those of democracy.

It is, therefore, certainly about time that someone make such a proposal. But how surprising that it came from the KMT. For a moment, people were beginning to wonder if perhaps the KMT had finally realized it must make moves to rehabilitate its image as a former totalitarian regime and an anti-localization party. After all, it cannot survive on the votes of "Great China" fanatics and Chiang-family supporters alone.

Furthermore, the TSU's recent boldness in creating a new agenda for discussion has helped it to successfully build a "Taiwan First" image. Therefore, optimists were hoping that perhaps the TSU's success in this regard had inspired the KMT to reshape its image.

Who can blame them for making such assumptions?After all, Huang is an "at-large" lawmaker for the KMT, which means his election and re-election depends solely upon first the KMT's nomination and then the party's garnering enough overall votes in the legislative election to gain him a seat in the legislature. Under ordinary circumstances, therefore, at-large lawmakers are least likely to defy their parties. Moreover, Huang is widely considered to be a very close confidant of KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰).

So it was disappointing when a KMT spokesman yesterday quickly stepped in to say that Huang had acted entirely on his own initiative without any endorsement from the party, and that the party would try to dissuade Huang.

So it turns out the KMT is still the same old KMT that remains unable to make a clear break with its past, be it its ill-gotten assets or its "one China" dream.

It is no exaggeration to say KMT members and supporters, especially the older generation, continue to deify Chiang. This kind of icon-worshipping is an insult to Taiwan's democracy. One cannot help but praise former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) for the example he has set in eliminating this kind of backward practice. Neither during his presidency nor after he stepped down has Lee allowed a single government-funded building, airport or street named after himself.

While Huang's proposal is sound, with or without the KMT's support, why not use the name "Democracy Memorial Hall" instead? It is most suitable to name a national landmark after Taiwan's most precious asset -- democracy. Buildings named after individual presidents are better off funded by individuals or private organizations, rather than the government, to avoid the kind of personality cult that Taiwan desperately needs to leave behind.

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