Sun, Sep 21, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Thank you, Mayor Ma

It was nice to finally see Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) conceding on Friday that the analogy between national referendums in Taiwan and the Cultural Revolution in China was inappropriate. On the other hand, Ma's statement came much too late, giving the DPP more than enough time to redirect public attention to the issue of national referendums, a topic from which the pan-blues have very little chance of winning any brownie points before March's presidential election.

The truth of the matter is the comparison between national referendums and the Cultural Revolution is not only inappropriate but an insult to democracy and the people of Taiwan. The two are in fact diametrically opposed. The former restores power into the hands of the people. The latter was a political campaign waged by a dethroned authoritarian leader -- Mao Zedong (毛澤東) -- to regain his reign. The Cultural Revolution resulted in bloodshed, brutality and political oppression. If anyone is guilty of waging a cultural revolution in Taiwan, it is the pan-blues for they have been deliberately inflaming public outrage against the government in the hope of retaking the presidency next year.

Ironically, the blue camp would have been better served had Ma immediately apologized for his slip of the tongue after Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) brought the Taipei mayor's comments out into the open. After all, the DPP has made the issue of a national referendum central to its presidential campaign for a number of very good reasons, chief among which is the fact that each time the issue comes up the pan-blues are left blowing in the wind while the DPP comes away looking like a defender of democracy.

The pan-blue camp predicament is that its position on the issue has evolved over the past months. At first, it rejected the idea, claiming that holding a national referendum would be interpreted by the Chinese government as a prelude to Taiwanese independence. Realizing that this stance made them not only appear meek but also at odds with the fundamental principals of democracy, they then decided to state open support for it.

However, many are skeptical about whether they truly mean it. The pan-blues can only drag their feet by feebly protesting against the lack of legislative basis for holding a national referendum. However, that invites further skepticism -- if they mean what they said, why didn't they cooperate with the DPP to enact the national referendum law?

Therefore, as far as the DPP is concerned, the more attention focused on the issue, the better. However, over the past few weeks, public attention has been diluted by other issues. At a time like this, Ma really deserves the gratitude of the DPP, not only for his initial slip up, but also for allowing the topic to simmer on the hot plate by jousting with Lin Chia-lung. Under the circumstances, no wonder some DPP members are joking that Lin may have just won himself a nomination in Taipei's next mayoral election.

Thanks to this little fiasco, there is now even greater momentum to push for the enactment of the national-referendum law. It is interesting to observe that the blue camp has never won a frontline engagement with the DPP on the national-referendum issue.

Ma and the blue camp should take action to refute skepticism about their lack of lip service to supporting national referendums and push for speedy enactment of the legislation.

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