Thu, Aug 17, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Shih's new campaign is a sorry tale

By Linda Gail Arrigo 艾琳達

At one time, Shih Ming-teh(施明德), known to close associates as Nori, could claim credit for standing up to the dictatorship of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in the struggle to bring democracy to Taiwan.

At the trials following the Kaohsiung Incident in March 1980 he made a brilliant argument that Taiwan had already been independent for 30 years. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) entered his political life as a lawyer for the defendants then. At that time, I was proud to defend Nori's sacrifice in international human rights proclamations. (Editor's note: Arrigo and Shih Ming-teh were married in 1978 and later divorced.)

In 1992 Shih lost the election for the chairmanship of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) because Hsu bought a few dozen delegate votes at the party's national conference, so Nori told me -- he chose not to push the issue for fear of tearing the party apart in the process. My own party interviews supported this.

Elected in 1994, and then allied with the New Tide faction, Nori made some effort to reform the DPP, but without success.

In my view, after that Shih began to lose the idealism and clarity of purpose that had marked his earlier words and actions. His "coffee meeting" to make a deal with New Party in late 1995 was widely criticized as failing the cause of Taiwan independence, and in his defensive reaction he began to hobnob with former enemies, defenders of martial law such as now People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), who as head of the Government Information Office in 1980 had vilified Shih.

In my opinion, despite his earlier steadfastness as a political prisoner, or perhaps because of it, Shih's lifestyle and habits did not prepare him for the daily grind of administration as a legislator and party chairman. A loner and a night-owl, he could not manage to keep office hours, or communicate effectively with his staff. Their dedication was mostly wasted. He was easily flattered by reporters and hangers-on, and addicted to women, alcohol and cigarettes.

I think it was these flaws of character that led Shih to seek the limelight with statements that were striking but badly coordinated with the rest of the DPP. Lawyers such as Chen were used to writing documents, hard work, early hours and teamwork and the lawyers soon upstaged Shih.

His bid for a legislative seat in Taipei in 2001 was unsuccessful -- and had been organized by Hsu's Rising Peoples' Foundation, whose founding was largely attended by liberal KMT figures. Shih did not support Chen's drive for the presidency in 2000. Among others, he gave a talk at Shih Hsin University sponsored by a New Party figure, and after presenting his philosophy of how he survived as a prisoner, he ended with pot shots at Chen.

According to Lin Chung-mo (林重謨), Lin got tired of Shih's grandstanding and thinking he could manipulate other DPP legislators, and so drove him out of the party caucus in 2000.

This is a brief glimpse of how I think Shih has come to play the role he has taken up now; people are continually asking me this. There has been a clear pattern of the KMT using former DPP figures to attack the DPP; and the KMT, formerly the richest political party in the world, has the resources to make this ploy attractive.

By now many years have passed, and although Shih announced last year that he was withdrawing from politics, he has now announced a campaign to unseat Chen, including the threat of extra-legal actions. Are we really to believe that Nori is doing this out of concern for the DPP and the highest of ideals?

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