Wed, Jan 11, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Ma's statement short-sighted

By Don Rodgers

A recent comment by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) serves as a disturbing indication of the short-sightedness and irresponsibility of the KMT's current policies.

In a discussion concerning cross-strait flights Ma stated, "But the government just can't figure out its policy priorities, and it pushes for constitutional re-engineering when what people want is a better economy" ("Ma backtracks on referendum proposal," Jan. 7, page 3). Without even addressing the glaring inconsistencies in Ma's position on the referendum issue, it is important to note the danger embodied in his statement.

Ma only states the obvious here; of course the people of Taiwan want a better economy. Yet a better economy is not all the people of Taiwan want.

The people of Taiwan also want further democratic development, a more efficient and effective government and political stability -- all things that can best be achieved through the development of a new constitution.

The original Republic of China Constitution was not written for Taiwan, and the legal and institutional structures it created present numerous problems when it comes to governing Taiwan. The Constitution was ignored for decades as the KMT attempted to consolidate its power through military force and martial law.

In the post-martial law era the constitutional reform or amendment process has been conducted inefficiently, with an eye on preserving the existing power structure. This has led to the creation of a confusing document that precludes efficient governance.

These constitutional problems must be addressed to ensure lasting political stability in Taiwan.

Without political stability Taiwan cannot have the better economy that Ma mentions.

Unfortunately Ma's statement is in line with decades of KMT policy that sacrifice the long-term well-being of the people for the party's short-term political interests. Since the party's founding and rule in China during the early 20th century, through its takeover of Taiwan and up through the 2004 presidential election, the KMT has sacrificed political reform that would have led to long-term stability in order to protect its power.

For example, the KMT's economic policies, which promoted rapid growth, also had a devastating impact on Taiwan's environment.

Due to its fear of any opposition, the KMT government implemented harsh laws during the martial law era that prevented some of the best and brightest Taiwanese minds from contributing to national development.

While the KMT has reformed in recent years, its strong conservatism and desire to hold onto power still prevent the party from taking more courageous steps toward political reform.

To now imply that constitutional reengineering must be ignored in order to focus on improving the economy once again highlights the party's short-sightedness. It is not clear to me why having a better economy and political reform are mutually exclusive.

Clearly Ma is not saying that we should return to the martial law era, during which the KMT outlawed political reform because it claimed reform would threaten economic growth.

And of course Ma must understand that the current constitutional structure leads to a government that harms the economy due to its inefficiency.

I know that Ma is an extremely intelligent and educated man who is well aware that the line between politics and economics is very fine indeed.

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