Tue, Jan 17, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Ma is consistent

By Frank Cheng

I wholly agree with Don Rodgers (Letters, Jan. 11, page 8) on his views on the political situation in Taiwan.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) backing away from his referendum proposal stems for the most part from his mistrust of the people's ability to make decisions for themselves.

Under the totalitarian rule of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in the latter half of the 20th century, the Taiwanese people were prohibited from exercising the right of referendum in all political matters. The main reason for this was that the KMT government was worried that its legitimacy might be challenged and that it might be overthrown, or worse, that Taiwan might declare independence from China by means of a referendum. Therefore, the word has become taboo, and something that is generally associated with independence.

The KMT regime long harbored an animosity against referendums, and Ma is no exception.

For instance, as chairman of Research, Development and Evaluation Commission under the Executive Yuan from 1988 to 1991, Ma was opposed to the idea of using referendums to make decisions on political matters. Therefore, his recent remarks as KMT chairman on the referendum proposal for direct cross-strait flights can only be seen as a deviation from his line of thinking.

To his way of thinking, voters are not eligible to exercise this basic right, for, once exercised in the case of direct air links, it might pave the way for the future independence of Taiwan. Ma is actually "consistent" in his attitude toward the referendum issue.

Rodgers' observation on the dichotomy between economics and politics provides a valuable lesson for Ma as well as President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Economics can't stand alone; nor can politics. It has finally dawned on Chen that "fighting for the economy" remains a futile slogan and that we can't develop the economy by sacrificing political development or stability, which he made clear in his New Year speech.

Ma, by placing the economy above political reform, is blind to the fact that a sound political system may ensure long-term economic development.

Ma's ignorance of this fact again is rooted in the KMT's mistrust of the people -- the Taiwanese were told to keep mum about political issues, especially after the 228 Incident and during the White Terror era. The Taiwanese were trained to remain ignorant of politics and concentrate on making money.

The calmer the Taiwanese remained, the easier it was for the KMT to govern.

Rodgers' solution to the current political instability -- constitutional re-engineering -- may sound like common sense for most democratic countries, but it may probably trigger intense criticism from some people, the majority of whom come from the pan-blue camp. Any attempt made by the pan-green camp at revamping the Constitution is regarded by the pan-blue camp as an act tantamount to declaring Taiwan an independent nation.

Without giving proper attention to the legitimacy of the Constitution, Ma goes so far as to attempt to make connections between Taiwan and the Constitution, claiming that evidence indicates that a number of Taiwanese representatives did take an active part in the writing of the Constitution in the 1940s.

Whether the evidence is credible or not, it points to one simple fact -- the Constitution was not written for Taiwan. As such, it is only natural that the Taiwanese shouldn't be deprived of the right to choose a Constitution that meets the needs of the people. It is a sad fact that Ma is blind to this.

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