Fri, Sep 02, 2005 - Page 8 News List

No truth, no sale

By John Conklin

Recently, a number of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members have suggested selling the party's national headquarters as a way to showcase its willingness to reform, and as a means to raise needed funds. However, this gesture misses the point, in that the emphasis should be on checking the background of the party's various properties.

In April last year, KMT Vice Chairwoman Lin Cheng-chih (林澄枝) suggested that the KMT streamline the party organization and sell its headquarters to jump-start party reform.

"The KMT needs to do something earthshaking and refreshing so that the public will marvel at our efforts to reform," Lin said.

She also said that selling the headquarters would be a way to raise money to pay for lay-offs and early retirements.

Sixteen months later, a member of the KMT's Central Standing Committee, Apollo Chen (陳學聖), backed the sale ("Selling its HQ building will free the KMT's spirit," Aug. 27, page 8).

He states that, "Selling off the party headquarters building will not undermine the KMT, but will be a step toward reforming the party and freeing its spirit, winning greater public support."

He also explains that, "Moreover, now that the KMT is not in power, its finances have often proved inadequate to cover its expenses, and the selling off of property and a reduction in staff has become necessary."

Such attempts to garner the voting public's support whilst turning a profit for the party underestimate the public's acumen and misinterprets their demands. It is not primarily the appearance of the 12-storey, imported-marble-layered and landscaped monument that directs people not to vote for the KMT. Rather, many voters do indeed have lingering questions and doubts about the KMT's purportedly legal and logical claims to this and other properties.

Chen's noble hope that "if voters have any issues, the party will actively respond to resolve those difficulties" needs to be the party's guiding principle, as evidenced not by the act of selling but by the acts of introspection and examination, which must be fully entered into prior to any sale.

If there is no internal and external scrutiny, then questions and doubts will persist. Was the prime piece of land for the KMT headquarters illegally appropriated from the Japanese government? Was it sold by the National Property Bureau to the KMT at a very cheap price, squandering the nation's profits to benefit one of the world's richest political parties? Was the headquarters itself constructed in flagrant violation of Taipei's municipal building codes?

Accounting for these types of property concerns is the only action that can free the KMT's spirit.

Furthermore, an attempt at full accountability needs to be supervised by an independent judiciary and allow for full public disclosure.

If the KMT has already "adopted the highest standards in dealing with the party-assets question" and "has had little to be ashamed of as to the legal and rational terms in which it has proceeded in dealing with the party-assets issue," as Chen claims, then a stringent legal and public accounting of its properties, beginning with the headquarters, should not be avoided. Instead, this should be embraced as the way for the KMT to meet public expectations, win greater public support, move toward reform, and, as a result, free its spirit.

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