Mon, Aug 28, 2006 - Page 8 News List

`Morality' campaigns ignore the KMT's past

By Hsueh Hua-yuan 薛化元

In Constitutional democracies, people can certainly question their national leader's morality. However, it is not a common practice for a president to step down due to his moral shortcomings. To ensure political stability, constitutional systems in some advanced countries stipulate that the head of state is exempt from all judicial proceedings during his or her term, with the exception of those who are found guilty of rebellion and or treason, or who have been impeached or are involved in other systemic proceedings.

After many difficulties, Taiwan managed to liberate itself from the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) strongman authoritarian system, and over the past decade, has been gradually developing toward becoming a regular constitutional democracy.

However, there has been no criticism of how the KMT government, led by the Chiang family, for several decades destroyed constitutional government and trampled on human rights. Nor has there been any review of the many abnormal systemic practices that were created during that time, not to mention the establishment of a reasonable government system or modus operandi.

This is very important for Taiwan's future development. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his administration have now been in power for six years, but they have not paid enough attention to the issue of transitional justice, and it is therefore only right that they should be subjected to criticism.

With regard to the formulation and implementation of many policies, Chen has failed to live up to his supporters' expectations. His administration has also failed to honor many campaign promises that could have been implemented by the Cabinet. That it did not begin correcting the names of state-owned enterprises cannot be blamed on the fact that the pan-blue camp is dominating the legislature.

In a constitutional democracy, it is only appropriate to demand that Chen take responsibility and apologize for these shortcomings, and that -- in the event that he refuses to bring about effective improvements -- impeachment proceedings or a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet be initiated in accordance with established procedure.

To instead place moral standards above the constitutional system, or to press a leader to step down because of his family's or his own moral shortcomings, or to threaten to resort to extra-legal means, is highly debatable.

First, allowing moral standards to override all other concerns -- in particular to demand that the president step down because of guilt by association with confidantes and family members -- is highly controversial in a constitutional democracy.

Rather than calling this a move toward the civil society of the West, it carries a shade of "pan-moralism," implying a possibility that Taiwan will regress from a modern constitutional democracy toward the traditional political morality of early modern China.

Second, as Taiwan's constitutional democracy moves toward normalization, criticism of many established but unreasonable systems, including reforms to how government heads at all levels report the use of their "special allowance" funds, are of course positive developments. This is necessary if Taiwan is to rid itself of the systems it inherited from the Chiang family and their authoritarian state.

If efforts to reform and build the system are neglected and we resort to calls for moral standards and demand that the president step down of his own free will, we will forgo criticizing and reviewing the past, and that would be regrettable.

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