Wed, Dec 22, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Up in smoke

It was a bizarre day in political circles yesterday. People First Party (PFP) legislators argued among themselves about supporting a proposed statute relating to the investigation and disposal of assets obtained by political parties and affiliated agencies -- a bill targeting assets stolen by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) over 50 years of rule.

Later, some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators also had an argument among themselves over a list of appointments for the Control Yuan proposed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Some of them even threatened to resign in protest.

Yesterday's farce on the legislative floor was a reprise of the conflict preceding the legislative elections on Dec. 11. On the one hand, the PFP's internal squabbling was triggered out of political self-interest, resulting in obstruction of the bill. The party has clearly already forgotten its campaign promise -- a mere 10 days since being elected. Before the elections, PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) repeatedly said that the KMT must clarify its position on party assets as a condition for the two parties to merge. Now, both PFP Vice Chairman Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄) and caucus whip Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) have called on the KMT "to return what belongs to the nation and the public." Yet these encouraging words have been overwhelmed with pressure exerted by different political interests inside the PFP. As a result, there is no review in sight for this bill.

Meanwhile, the DPP legislators say Chen's nominations for the Control Yuan do not accord with his election promises. They have asked that party discipline not be applied to them if they vote against the appointments, and have threatened to resign in protest if it is.

What is noteworthy is that such dramas, playing out in the legislature on the same day, reveal a distinct political mentality. The courageous DPP legislators who criticized their party and held firm to their political principles should be applauded.

It is encouraging to see matters of right and wrong coming to the fore at this time, because a political party's healthy development depends to a large extent on the trust it is able to inspire in the public. It is common knowledge that resolution of the party assets issue is something that the great majority of people have wanted for some time. There are even a good number of KMT legislators who favor resolution of this matter so that the issue does not hamper the party's chances of regaining power at a later date.

But the excuse offered by the rump of the PFP in blocking the bill -- that the DPP's unwillingness to accept its support is a tactic to cause a rift in the pan-blue camp -- is sheer sophistry. It is precisely this kind of short-sighted thinking that led to the PFP being rejected by the electorate in the elections, in the form of 12 lost seats.

By insisting that appointments to the Control Yuan be subject to scrutiny by the people's representatives in both the ruling and opposition parties, the DPP legislators are standing by their political principles and putting the public interest ahead of their own -- and their party's. The PFP should heed this warning: If it continues to treat matters of public interest with such comprehensive negligence, it will eventually be rejected by the public altogether and go up in smoke.

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