Tue, Jul 06, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chart a firm course on investigation

On July 4, Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General James Huang (黃志芳) confirmed that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is considering establishing a special committee to investigate the March 19 shooting that injured him and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮). Chen should not repeat his past mistake of shifting policies back and forth for short-term strategic advantage; he must keep his promise to maintain constitutional government and judicial process. Rather than setting up a new investigative mechanism outside the constitutional and legal system, he should focus on strengthening the existing joint prosecutor-police investigation team.

Four months have passed since the shooting on the eve of the presidential election, and the investigation team has yet to make a breakthrough. Although he was the incident's victim, Chen has been severely questioned about it by both the opposition and the media. A resolution of the case is crucial for the success of his second term, and his desire for this is easily understandable.

The current inconclusive situation also is unfavorable to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the year-end legislative elections. The delays in the investigation may become a stick with which the opposition can beat the ruling party, and this could cost the green camp its chance to win a majority in the legislature.

In the face of political deadlock, it is necessary for the ruling party to find a solution. Nevertheless, Chen should not put political necessity ahead of the constitutional system that he has sworn to uphold. The government should accelerate the investigation by pushing it forward responsibly, without neglecting the big picture and the incident's historical implications.

If Chen establishes an independent commission to oversee the investigation, the legal status and the procedures under which it is called into being will come under discussion. The judiciary cannot provide it with "extraordinary temporary powers," and its every action will become a subject of controversy in the run-up to the elections.

As four months have passed, the "golden window of opportunity" for the investigation is long past. For the president to change his original plan regarding the search will not dispel opposition suspicions; neither will it win support from the legal, political and academic establishment. Instead, the government could increase the manpower dedicated to the investigation, or give the team greater legal powers to carry out its tasks, or give it a larger budget or more resources.

If Chen wishes to create an extraordinary commission, even to look into past cases that took place during the martial-law period, then he should do this through legislation. The government and opposition parties should both make some concessions and agree on such legislation so that a commission could be established to investigate past cases.

Another issue that causes concern is the role of the vice president. Even as Chen mulls the direction of the new administration and seeks advice from many quarters, Lu has tended to exaggerate her own importance, not only criticizing the current investigative team but also making announcements on details of the investigation and generally trying to grab the limelight.

Internal troubles within the Presidential Office were one of the main headaches of Chen's first administration. Lu should keep to her role as an assistant to the president, rather than focusing her thoughts on succeeding to the presidency in 2008 and pushing herself forward as though she were already on the campaign trail. After all, having a lot to say doesn't imply that one has understanding, and saying it loudly isn't the same as getting things done. Now that the election is won, Lu should stop behaving as though she were still campaigning.

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