Sat, Nov 20, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Follow Havel's moral example

This year is the 15th anniversary of the Czech people's overthrow of 41 years of communist rule. Taiwan has invited the internationally respected fighter for democracy and former president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel for a six-day stay, which began yesterday. We are glad to welcome Havel, whose outstanding contributions to democracy have set an example. We would also like to ask what lessons the country can learn by looking at Havel's experiences.

All his life, Havel has opposed communism. He was sent to prison three times because he would not compromise with the dictators, with sentences ranging from one year to four-and-a-half years. During his time as president, he refused to issue visas to Alexandr Lukashenko, president of Belarus and Leonid Kuchma, president of Ukraine, to attend a NATO meeting in Prague to discuss the 9/11 terror attacks, saying that he did not welcome dictators who violated human rights. His uncompromising and consistent moral courage made him the only incumbent leader of an Eastern European country who, after the region's peaceful revolution, did not visit China. Ignoring Chinese intimidation and pressure, he courageously met with the Dalai Lama, former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) when they visited the Czech Republic.

On Nov. 17, the anniversary of the Czech Republic's "Velvet Revolution," the poet and writer Havel expressed his thoughts in a solemn and sincere article: "If democracy is emptied of values and reduced to a competition of political parties that have `guaranteed' solutions to everything, it can be quite undemocratic." He stressed that, "politics is not just a technology of power, but needs to have a moral dimension." He also called for us all to "ponder the meaning of moral behavior and free action."

There is no hiding the fact that although Taiwan has undergone three democratic presidential elections, party politics has still failed to stay completely on track. The main reason for this is that our political leaders do not have high principles or moral character. Havel's speech can serve as an example to us all. We must remind Taiwan's political parties, both large and small, that morality is the soul of a political party. We must not let lust for power make us stop at nothing to win, for then we lose our political principles. Neither should we speak or act carelessly, for otherwise we undermine our responsibility and harm the welfare of the people.

Ever since the March 20 election, the behavior of the opposition party has been disappointing. Since that time, how many opposition politicians have stood on Ketagalan Boulevard and made irresponsible and sensational statements to the media and the public?

Some have even sought to persuade the military to launch a "soft coup d'etat." After the elections most people in Taiwan actually hoped that the pan-blue camp could fulfill the role of a loyal opposition, and not simply oppose everything the government proposes -- thereby creating more conflict and confrontation in the legislature. But instead they have forgotten the moral responsibility that political parties and politicians owe to the people, the nation and society.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also has room for improvement. It should have a more humble attitude in the face of criticism from the opposition. The DPP represents Taiwan's indigenous political forces, and its rule is supported by huge public expectations and sacrifice. It has a responsibility to protect Taiwan's current democratic achievements, and internal corruption or any malign tendency to compromise with China will therefore be unforgivable.

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