Wed, Nov 12, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Put leash on political organizations

By Ku Chung-hwa 顧忠華

Several secrets have come to light amid the tumultuous debate about the historical merits and demerits of Soong Mayling (宋美齡) following her recent death. Among those secrets are the NT$70 billion in assets allegedly owned by the National Women's League of the ROC (婦聯會), which was chaired by Soong for a long time. Its entire lack of financial transparency, however, has given rise to concern.

According to a Nov. 2 report in the Liberty Times, the Ministry of the Interior's civil affairs department, which is in charge of such matters, explained that the league was registered as a "political organization" under the Civic Organizations Law (人民團體法) and that the budgets of political organizations are excluded from government supervision required by Article 33 and Article 34 of the law. Except for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), none of Taiwan's 30-plus political organizations and 102 political parties submit their budgets, final accounts and balance sheets to the authorities for review.

This situation is unthinkable in a country under the rule of law.

In contrast, social and professional organizations established under the Civic Organizations Law have their freedom of association restricted by the authorities by way of an "approval system."

The authorities have also compiled nit-picking rules covering everything from names, charters, agendas, elections and recalls, to the handling of financial matters. They sit high up in the air and instruct people on how to manage the internal affairs of an organization.

Political organizations and political parties, however, are only required to send some documents to the authorities for review. Besides, once established, they apparently do not need to undergo any supervision. It is no wonder that a "Fumin Party" (富民黨) resembling a Ponzi scheme has popped up recently. Unless the Ministry of Finance cracks down hard on them, the Civic Organizations Law will become a haven for dirty business, allowing "political" organizations to commit all sorts of crimes.

With this unreasonable situation repeatedly coming under criticism, the interior ministry has recently submitted amendments to the Civic Organization Law to the Executive Yuan. The amended law would no longer divide organizations into three categories -- social, professional and political -- but would treat all organizations equally in terms of financial supervision. We can say that this is a direction in accord with the trend of democracy, but it may stir controversy between the ruling and opposition parties. Especially when it comes to regulations on political parties, the Executive Yuan needs to make up its mind on whether to enact a separate "political parties law." Otherwise, its attempts to resolve the matter will further entangle it, and will not necessarily resolve the chaotic situation of political organizations possessing numerous privileges.

However, before the law is amended or new ones enacted, we call on the so-called political organizations and political parties to accept public scrutiny instead of continuing to hide behind the shield of privileges.

They should know that Article 44 of the Civic Organizations Law stipulates, "Political organizations are organizations established by citizens of the Republic of China on the basis of shared democratic political concepts and with the objectives of helping shape political awareness among the citizens and promoting political participation by citizens." Article 45 adds that "the objective of recommending candidates to participate in elections for government office" is a key factor in the establishment of political parties.

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