Mon, Dec 20, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Confront the conspiracy-mongers

By Su Yen-tu蘇彥圖

The Constitutional Court delivered a half-right decision last Wednesday. The court got it right in striking down several provisions in the March 19 Shooting Truth Investigation Special Committee Statute (三一九槍擊事件真相調查特別委員會條例) as unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the court was wrong in justifying the committee as a legislative agency authorized to exercise the investigative power vested in the legislature.

Categorizing the committee as an agency of the legislative branch of government appears to be an important premise of the court's reasoning regarding the statute's flaws. The court argues that the committee should not have any prosecutorial function because a legislative agency cannot possess that without violating the separation-of-power principle.

Justice Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) argued in his long dissent that such a far-fetched categorization is neither warranted nor indispensable. The court could have ruled the statute unconstitutional without distorting the legislation's text and history.

The distorted statutory construction indicates the court's effort to avoid invalidating the March 19 statute in its entirety. The statute created an unchecked and unbalanced agency and did away with critical guarantees of due process of law. No such institution can be found in other constitutional democracies.

For those who do not turn a blind eye to realpolitik, it is apparent that truth-seeking is a pretext for the legislation's real intent. The law really aims to advance the pan-blue camp's partisan interests in "power politics" and "symbolic politics."

With these partisan considerations in mind, there is a paradox between the law's means and its asserted purpose. It is disingenuous to pretend that an inherently biased agency can decipher the truth faithfully and impartially. Partisan interest is by no means legitimate state interest.

A law that pursues partisan self-interest at the expense of the common good should not withstand constitutional scrutiny. Even a lenient review of the means and ends relationship could have helped the court draw out the committee's insidious intent.

Justice Hsu Yu-hsiu (許玉秀) was right in suggesting that the investigation is in essence partisan warfare. By pushing the committee back to the legislative branch, the court's ruling may preserve the principle of political accountability. Under this principle, both parties should be held accountable through the political or electoral process.

Justice Hsu Yu-hsiu's partially concurring opinion suggests the court considered the statute a legitimate exercise of legislative investigation, as it purports to examine whether the election's integrity was compromised by the March 19 assassination attempt.

Electoral integrity surely deserves our greatest concern, but baseless conspiracy theories do not. The court failed to distinguish between allegations based on reasonable grounds and those founded on conspiracy theories. Legislative investigation in the absence of any reasonable cause surrenders reason to the conspiracy-mongers. This is exactly the cause and consequence of the statute.

In the US, the Warren Commission also dealt with conspiracy theories surrounding John F. Kennedy's assassination. But the Warren Commission endeavored to refute, not to entertain, conspiracy theories about communist involvement in the assassination. Did the March 19 committee also take a critical stance against conspiracy theories regarding the assassination attempt on Chen?

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