Wed, Nov 10, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Need for a new constitution evident

The Taiwan Professors Association (TPA) unveiled a draft "Constitution of the Republic of Taiwan" on Sunday. The draft suggests changing Taiwan's name from the Republic of China (ROC) to the Republic of Taiwan (ROT). It also suggests that we shrink the nation's territory to Taiwan and Penghu. As for Kinmen and Matsu, it suggests we grant residents of those islands the right of self-determination, so they can decide to declare independence, or to unify with Taiwan or China.

A group of professors with a strong local consciousness established the association in Taipei 14 years ago, when Taiwan was under the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) authoritarian rule. The group's members are from colleges and universities across the country. They were pioneers in Taiwan's democratization. From the abolishment of the National Assembly, establishment of direct presidential elections, the withdrawal of political and military forces from the media, to legislative reforms and other major issues, they have often taken the lead and roused the public through demonstrations, sit-ins and other activities. They have criticized unreasonable systems and lent their support to far reaching political reforms.

The Constitution is unsuitable in the present day. When it was written in China, Taiwan was still part of Japan. Representatives of the people of Taiwan never participated in the drawing up of the document. The KMT no longer rules China or Taiwan and the UN recognizes the People's Republic of China as the legitimate government of China. Yet the ROC Constitution states that its territory still includes all of the PRC as well as Mongolia. It is preposterous not to change the Constitution.

Taiwan's chaotic political situation stems mainly from the political parties' differences over national recognition and the scope of national territory. The TPA's assertion that the territorial issue should be settled through referendums and the writing of a new constitution that gives the people of Kinmen and Matsu the right to decide their own fate is worth supporting. Such a move would help end the internecine fighting in the legislature and in society.

But there are other important issues that must also be addressed: Whether to adopt a three-branch or five-branch government structure and whether to adopt a presidential system, a cabinet system or a dual-executive system. In order to ensure peace and security for future generations, Taiwan needs to re-engineer or at least make large-scale amendments to the Constitution to clarify these issues.

Both local and foreign constitutional experts as well as experts in legal and political affairs should be called in to assist in formulating a new constitution that meets the needs of a modern Taiwan. As to the debate over whether Taiwan needs to change its national title or its national flag, these are questions that can eventually be resolved by referendum.

But before embarking on the effort to overhaul the Constitution, the government must make it clear to the international community that such a move is absolutely necessary for Taiwan's continued survival and development. Without a new constitution, Taiwan will have no future, for internal conflicts will increase until they damage the nation's economic prospects.

Both the US and China should accept that the mainstream consensus within Taiwan is for a new constitution, for it is the natural result of democratization. It is not intended as a threat or an expression of enmity toward anyone.

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