Tue, Sep 12, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Sit-in gets the big thumbs down

After weeks of preparation and round-the-clock coverage from cable TV news channels, the sit-in instigated by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) aimed at deposing President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) finally got underway on Saturday.

But instead of a triumphant march to the crowning of a new president that the organizers had envisioned, the protest so far has turned out to be something of a damp squib.

Any illusions that the organizers and opposition parties tried to create about the protest being a non-partisan affair were quickly dispelled as the usual suspects from the pan-blue camp scrambled to appear on stage and give the by-now-familiar thumbs down gesture.

People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) was first to show his face, followed by the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) candidate for December's Taipei mayoral election, Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌).

Then just one day after suggesting he would not show up at the event, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took the stage in yet another demonstration of why he is unfit to become the next president.

The fact that none of them addressed the crowd does not cover up the contempt their appearance showed for both the nation's judicial system and its democracy.

The true colors of those attending was then laid bare for all to see after pro-independence participant Wang Lie-ping (王麗萍) referred to the Republic of Taiwan during a speech and the organizers were quickly forced to issue an apology to the angry crowd.

The high hopes that Shih and his team had for the event must have faded on day one as, according to police estimates, less than a third of the expected 300,000 attendees showed up. The weather played a part as the threat of a good soaking seemed to dampen the enthusiasm of many would-be attendees. These factors, combined with a lack of organization, meant that the grand plan to invoke the power of Peru's Nazca lines descended into chaos.

But surely the biggest talking point is the part-time attendance of Shih, who just a few days earlier had vowed to camp outside the Presidential Office until the president stepped down, even if it meant carrying on until the end of Chen's term in March 2008.

The first few hours were not even up before he was whisked away in a chauffeur-driven limousine for a shower and a rest at an undisclosed location, leaving the spartan comforts of his trailer behind and the poor protesters pitching their tents in the torrential rain to wonder what was going on.

How can Shih expect his fellow protesters to stick around and endure such hardship when he is not willing to do the same?

Faced with all these disappointments, the pro-unification, anti-Chen media organizations have been forced to find a new angle. Shih's health has now become the focus of much of the coverage, including revelations of cancerous tumors.

Many analysts believe the campaign will fizzle out and fail to achieve its ultimate aim of Chen being forced to step down.

And if events so far are anything to go by then they appear to be right. The president and the DPP have already received the message loud and clear that the people will no longer tolerate corruption, and all the cases of alleged impropriety that have been uncovered are being dealt with by the authorities.

Shih and the organizers should also heed the message that the weekend's events have conveyed to them and end this ridiculous attempt to subvert Taiwan's democracy.

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